Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dirty Hands

Lets say “not in the early day”. More taking the car apart. Took out the air filter and ductwork to the engine.

Car Apart 2 011Car Apart 2 001

Car Apart 2 004Car Apart 2 020Car Apart 2 009Car Apart 2 018Car Apart 2 022

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Car Pictures – Fuses

Today we started to take a part the white car. I thought of taking PhotoFly and Fuses 457out the battery today to do something easy, but evidently they’ve hid the battery in the engine compartment and all I could find was the leads to it. Instead we took out the fuse cover and fuses.

My youngest daughter dutifully helped by holding the tools. The oldest assisted by taking pictures. She like taking pictures, she has nothing else to say about taking pictures.

The fuses were difficult to take out by hand, but the handy pliers made getting them out easier.

PhotoFly and Fuses 449 PhotoFly and Fuses 424 PhotoFly and Fuses 422 PhotoFly and Fuses 425 PhotoFly and Fuses 434 PhotoFly and Fuses 428 PhotoFly and Fuses 433

The big picture of the car:

PhotoFly and Fuses 420

Does anyone want some fuses?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An Observation

Reagan ran on hope and a belief in the people and as a consequence brought prosperity; Obama ran on change and a belief in the government and as a consequence brought            ?        .

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Art – Pipes

Here’s the second of the series on my daughter’s art work on infrastructure. It is tilted Pipe on wood background.

Bloggers Day 009

Monday, September 27, 2010

Art – Roadway

I’ve commissioned my daughter to do a series of pictures on infrastructure. Below is her first work titled “Roadway”.

Bloggers Day 007

Monday, September 13, 2010

Union Station - TRAXX

I recently traveled to Los Angeles for 3ds Max Design training. To get down there I traveled on Amtrak to Union Station. On the return trip I was hungry and decided to eat at a Union Station eatery called TRAXX. I primarily choose to eat there because there isn’t much else to eat at near the station (there is Alvarado Street, but I chose not eat there)

The inside of the station is open and airy, although not fully utilized. The space below is an empty portion of the train station.

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Eating at TRAXX was quite surprising, who’d expect a fancy restaurant in a train station today. The eatery has seating both inside the station and outside in an exterior courtyard. The weather was quite pleasant and the service was good. The meal started with triangular butter and a variety of sliced bread.

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The bread shape lent itself to model building. I came up with a tall offset floor building and a decorative A shaped art sculpture.

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I was traveling on a budget, so I ordered a Waldorf Salad. The salad portion was on the smaller side, but made up for it with a nice taste. The salad was perfectly dressed with the right amount of dressing pre tossed.

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The apples were crisp and the spiced walnuts added to the flavor of the salad. The quality of the ingredients were good. Other items on the menu included burgers, lamb chops pasta and steak. If I’m waiting for a train again I’d eat there again.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Teacher Education

I'm thinking my sister shouldn't let me do her homework, either that or lock her computer when she's away from it.

Education 302
Fall 2010

Norms for fieldwork Observations and Participation Fall 2010

 Dress code: students follow a strict dress code (ie must wear tennis shoes, solid colors, etc) but Teachers can dress with more leniency. No jeans, no hats. Dress professional so students will take teacher seriously.

 Attend fieldwork every Wednesday and Thursday 4th period – 7th period (exact times depend varies on which topic a student chooses to study. Topics of study include post modern art, architectural modernism and how it affects/effects the world or how little kids eat fruit.

 Kids should be seen and not heard. All questions to the teacher will be texted to a clearance center in India. If deemed appropriate by Bill (Ismaeilasdf) it will be forward on into the teacher’s email box for answering the next day.

 The instructor of the class will not use pink paper. This paper may inflict irreversible conditions for children of male persuasion.

 Honey should not be used in the classroom or utilized by parents in their kids lunches. Maybe the downfall of the bees in the news is caused by the beekeepers stealing the honey from the hives.

 McDonald’s will be the chosen food source for lunches. The preservatives will ensure fresh food available for the students.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Doodle - Heart Needs a Caption

I'm thinking I need a caption writer for my Doodles. Have any caption suggestions for my heart?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Doodle - Shooting Star

My shooting star was sad when my coworker told me he couldn't give me a ride after work.
But he asked for the star to turn the frown upside down, and it did. Now its much happier.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Doodle - Angry Tree Stump

Instead of doing a blog post on the new AutoCAD for MAC, I decided to do this doodle instead.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Doodle - The Race Is On

Unfortunately the road is a bit potholed, causing the car on the right to pop up off the road. That's going to cost him in the race.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Green Marketing

Can we please stop the green marketing? Either believe in it and follow through or drop the superficial act that you want to protect the environment. The latest example of this is the movie Valentine’s Day. While I was watching the movie I kept thinking, they must not have voted for Proposition O, because the actions in the movie didn’t further the goals of the bond issue. Leaving discarded paper, vases and paper after an accident or purposefully putting flowers into a water way. Both pollute the environment. What really got me was the note at the end of the movie.

“The production of this film incorporated a number of ecological practices in order to minimize its environmental impact and promote the use of natural resources.”

If you haven’t seen the movie, the city of Los Angeles is a prominent character in the movie through visuals. If the production really wanted to promote and reduce the environmental impact they would have had the environmental Nazis come in and arrest both the Ashton Kutcher and George Lopez characters.It would have modeled that this behavior harms the environment. Instead the movie modeled that it is acceptable to leave your trash in the street and discard old flowers into a waterway, both of which is against the law and harms the environment.

In another scene the Jennifer Garner confronts the Patrick Dempsey character. At the end of the confrontation she is given food by the matradee that is charged to the Patrick Dempsey character. She’s on the way to a bash valentine’s day party, why does she need this food? It seems like this food is just going to be thrown away. Wouldn’t it be better if she stopped by one of the numerous homeless shelters or food banks and donated the food?

Sure these things would have killed the story, but it would have been actual green actions then green marketing.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Doodle - Hatches

Another Doodle on the white board, look for my article in the next issue of AUGIWorld when it comes out in a month or so.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Monday, July 5, 2010

Encounter Restaurant

I recently ate at 100_0281the Encounter Restaurant at Los Angeles International Airport. Its in the unique looking building located near the center of the airport. Not quite sure why, but in 1962 the City of Los Angeles decided to commission and build this slightly futuristic building. Up in the higher floor is a restaurant and down below it appears to have been a place to purchase tickets. I had quite a long layover in Los Angeles, the Pacific Surfliner train to a flight at LAX and decided to catch a bite to eat in the unique restaurant. The architecture of the building is extremely 60’s and retains much of its original look.

The restaurant’s main draw, other than the exterior appearance, is a futuristic Star Trek type theme inside. Futuristic 60’s music blares over the load speaker on the elevator ride up. The surfboard themed decorations appear slightly out of place though. The bartender’s dispenser is shaped as a phaser, ready to stun your alcoholic Phaserspirit of choice with a sugary splash of  soda. The menu comes on board the trip with references to atoms, aliens and atoms. Groups of 15 or more will have to pay a 15% docking fee. Another nod to the 60’s is the numerous lava lamps complete with adorning flying saucers.

From the EncounterViewrestaurant one can partake of views of departing and arriving flights  from throughout the world. On my visit the skies were a bit hazy. Not quite sure how the movies make LA skies always look fresh and clear; I guess a bit of visual trickery. 

I was a bit EntranceSigndisappointed by the entrance sign, it doesn’t quite match the exterior or interior decor.  The warning sign within the elevator made up for it, though it was rotated 90 degrees and easy to miss. I know if I was panicking in the elevator because it stoppedWarningSign I’m sure to have missed it’s helpful reassuring prose.

The menu has the basics, burgers, sandwiches and salads, as well as some higher end menu items such as steaks. Since I was on a budget I went with the Smoked Turkey BLT. The $14 sandwich had ample amounts of turkey, avocado and tomatoes. I found the bread was a bit too small for the amount of filling as some squirted out in the first bite.


The sandwich comes with a choice of salad or garlic parmesan fries. I went with the fries. The fries could have been crispier and the  amount of parmesan could have been more plentiful. Overall the meal was delicous though the price tag was relatively high and comparable at the same time. High for a sandwich, but comparable when compared to other airport food choices.

If I ever have a long layover at LAX I’ll probably visit again, though I wouldn’t make it a regular stop on my frequent trips from Central Coast to Southern California.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

“Unemployment Checks Fastest Way to Create Jobs”

A certain Senator from California alluded that the fastest way to create jobs is sending out more unemployment checks. I fail to see how this in any way is going to create jobs quickly or at all. If anything it prevents draining additional money out of the economy, but that’s not creating jobs that’s preserving jobs. If you are unemployed that’s a big difference because you’ll still be unemployed and without a job.

There are actions Congress can take that would create lots of jobs. Here’s a list of things Congress could do to create a bounty of jobs, in no particular order:

  • Temporarily disallow local, State and Federal laws that prohibit or limit the selling of items on the street. Have you seen apple sellers on street corners? While not successful in creating long term jobs the International Apple Shippers Association did provide temporary relief for some during the Great Depression.
  • Make it free to incorporate a business, let people easily create their own job.
  • If jobs are important the Federal minimum wage rate can be temporarily reduced.
  • Federal environmental laws can be temporarily relaxed or the Government can hire more workers to process the permits. How about taking the permitting process from a 6 to 9 months to a week? Think of how many projects could have been started in the past year, creating jobs. I know I’m currently working on projects that are going to be delayed because of this, and this delays jobs being created.
  • After working with the Davis Bacon wage rates, they could be slashed in half. Doing so would increase the number of Federal and State projects that could be constructed increasing the number of jobs available.
  • Turn back on the pumps at the Sacramento Delta to nearly instantly create jobs on the West side of California’s Central Valley.
  • Create actual jobs and resurrect the CCC, CWA, NRA, TVA, REA and CWA. While the original programs can’t be called a total success, they did provide jobs and more benefit to society then handing out $64 billion to people to sit around and gripe about being unemployed.

These are just a few ideas on how to actually create jobs. Sadly I don’t think any of these would be on the Senator’s list. I guess it’s not really about creating jobs, but to make sure she’s able to purchase votes for the next election.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

If You Build it They Will Come

This weekend I took a variety of transportation methods to travel from San Luis Obispo, CA to Boston, MA. I 100_0272 drove my car from my house to the Grover Beach Train Station. From there I took the Pacific Surfliner to Union Station in Los Angeles where I took the FlyAway bus shuttle to the Los Angeles International Airport. After a long layover I departed on a commercial jet plane to Boston, MA. Once in Boston I walked to the light rail system and walked to the hotel.

California, along with some other states, are planning on building High Speed Rail (HSR) lines. While I can see the HSR rail working in more populous states I’m failing to see it succeeding here in California financially and ridership wise.

Financially it appears to be a looming disaster. At an estimated cost of $42 Billion it’s hard to imagine ridership fares even coming close to covering that cost let alone the costs of operations. Currently the project does not have nearly enough funds to cover the costs of right-of-way acquisition, environmental blackmail fees, design, and construction. I can’t see the project can’t viably being built in phases. The proposed path winds it’s way up the Central Valley of California. If you have ever driven it you’ll find a lot of farm land sprinkled with small cities and medium sized cities of Bakersfield and Fresno. Not sure about you, but I’ve never found Bakersfield or Fresno hot destinations from people in Northern or Southern California.

The future ridership appears based on if you build it they will come. Except California already has a rail system that travels from there to there and is currently subsidized by the California Department of Transportation. People in large numbers aren’t traveling by train. After traveling a portion of it I can say lack of alignment improvements and lack of double tracks cause most of the delays. Portions of the trip are downright slow and any short mechanical delay can turn into a longer period because of the single track in places. It seems to me if California wants faster rail it should spend the money improving the system they already have rather than building an expensive HSR route through the Central Valley that appears to be a looming financial disaster. But then again the legislature appears to love them so I guess we'll get to pay higher taxes to pay for it. And this includes you in the other 47 states.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Project Recognition

When are 100_0280project recognition plaques appropriate? I get people want credit, but does every project need them? While usually a small cost in relation to project costs, having recognition signs do add up to big money.

Maybe some signs, required by law, may violate the spirit of election laws. For instance in the State of ‘budget challenged’ California voters are often asked to vote on bond measures. Once in place government agencies receiving funds are required to put up signs indicating which bond measure provided funds to construct the improvements. It seems to me this is a political message so the next time a similar type bond message comes up you’ll be sure to vote for it. Definitely has the appearance of inappropriate allocation of public funds.



Sunday, April 18, 2010

What Gets Subsidized?

I’m always a bit amazed when I hear people complain that car transportation is subsidized. I always wonder what alternative is less subsidized? Riding a bike or walking is nearly 100% subsidized. Taking a public bus, subway or light train is subsidized around 75%. Today’s car transportation subsidy is mainly caused by inaction on the part of Congress to adjust gas taxes at the same rate CAFE fuel efficiency requirements are increase.

So if you don’t want car transportation subsidized then call your Congressperson and ask them to increase the gas tax to meet current obligations. You may want to also ask them to stop robbing the Highway Account to fund the Mass Transit Account. In the Fiscal Year to day $269,862,066 has been transferred. That’s a –22% decrease from the prior year. Its a bit ironic that gas taxes are used to subsidize mass transit while at the same time the car is getting a bad wrap for being subsidized.

I guess we should also question if the original premise is correct. Are cars subsidized? If we look closer a small portion of car transportation is subsidized. Roads within a subdivision, and sometimes offsite, are built by the developer. Bridge replacement projects are mainly funded through gas taxes, 80% Federal match, and the local funds are often subsidized by STIP funds.

So how about we start appreciating the car as an efficient mode of travel instead of advocating other forms of transportation that are more heavily subsidized then cars.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cars ARE Mass Transit

What is mass transit? If you consider mass transit a public, large scale system that provides a city or metropolitan area a means of transportation; then you have to call the public system of roads and freeways utilized by cars mass transit.

I’ve seen a bunch of newspaper articles, blog posts, etc. claiming that America doesn’t have a great mass transit system. I’d have to disagree, I can get in my car and drive to any city in the continental United States. I can usually get there quicker than bus, train or light rail system.

Now the main reason I’m doing this post is because of straight out lies being put forth by people for the expansion of light rail, high speed rail and bus systems. Now I don’t have a problem people having these opinions, but I do have a problem with outright lies in supporting of their position. I actually read a quote in an article that stated flat out that Caltrans (DOT) wasn’t a transit operation. Caltrans is the largest transit organization in the State of California providing transportation to the masses.

A topic usually glossed over is cost. The problem is we can’t afford a large scale system of light rail and busses that don’t pay their own way. If you take a look at the fare box collection of the new mass transit systems you quickly find they don’t come close to covering the operation costs, let alone the capital costs required to build the system. I’d wager you’d be willing to pay $10 round trip in your car, but would pass up paying $3.00 round trip in a bus. I know I do everyday. The caveat being it takes about 1 hour longer taking the bus, each way. This being what i would consider a great schedule and opportunity to take the system. Now would I pay the actual cost of the trip of $12 taking the bus and take longer? I don’t think so.

If the Untied States really wanted a bus system then Greyhound would be a robust system of travel. Instead Greyhound only provides a relatively paltry 25 million passengers. Now when you were planning your last trip, did you even explore taking Greyhound? If you are for a large light rail/bus system and you didn’t think of taking Greyhound as a means of travel, then would you use a publically operated light rail or bus system? I don’t think so and I don’t really want to spend trillions of dollars for you to prove my point.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What’s the End Game Plan?

As another Earth Hour passes it makes me think once again what’s the end game plan of the environmental movement. Earth Hour is billed as “a global call for action on climate change.” If it truly is a call for action wouldn’t these non-essential lights be extinguished the other 8,764.8 hours?

Speaking of getting rid of non-essential polluting; wouldn’t the only coffee baristas be located in Africa, Hawaii and other coffee producing countries if the end game plan was to save the planet? Why is the world creating a ton of supposedly earth ending pollutants just so you can get a kick of caffeine in the morning?

Is the end goal to have us live primitively? Well I’m against that. Is it for the earth the stay the same? The environment indicates otherwise.

Can you tell me what the end game plan is?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Meat Subsidies

All of a sudden I’m seeing articles claiming meat is getting a massive amount of subsidies and causing great harm to the environment. The problem is in researching the numbers behind the claims. It seems a whole lot of assumptions are being made to get to the number. The large amount of claimed subsidies don’t go to meat, but to soy and corn farmers, well as far as I can tell. The stretch they are doing is counting the subsidies that soy and corn farmers are receiving should be counted as subsidies to meat production.

I feel this stretch is not appropriate. For if we apply the logic to other venues of government subsidies we should get rid of public transportation. For instance many employees in the bay area utilize subsidized public transportation. Companies with a large presence in the bay area include the like of Cisco, Oracle, Autodesk and other high margin businesses in the bay area. Cisco has a gross profit margin of 68%, Oracle is at 82% and Autodesk is at 95%. Most agriculture operations would like to even come close to achieving these subsidies. Many of the articles I’ve read demonize Tyson Foods; yet they only have an 8.3% gross profit margin. BART received a subsidy of $318,212,902 for the last fiscal year (non-ridership revenue), the companies seam to hardly need the subsidies. The anti-meat crowd would have to decry these blatant subsidies based on their logic. Unfortunately I would say they wouldn’t agree with my logic in this case.

Another point is environmental damages. I would say Cisco, Oracle and Autodesk contribute greatly to global warming due to providing the tools to continue the use of power hungry data centers, personal computers and small computer devices. Another logical reason to get rid of the public transportation subsidies that benefit these companies. Maybe BART needs to check where everyone works and make people pay based on where they work. It would remove the subsidies.

I don’t mind people being against meat, they have that right to voice their opinion. I would like a little more truth in the claims. For if we added up all of the costs of what we do we’d quickly come to the conclusion that we shouldn’t do anything because it all causes environmental impacts and costs to the government.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why Would I Want to Pay More?

Came across this pricing scheme at CVS. The “You Pay Price” is $3.29, it was $3.79 and it’s now $3.49. I’d prefer to pay the $3.29, but I wasn’t quite sure what price would have rang up.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Myth of Water Scarcity – Developed Countries

I’m sure you’ve read an article on water scarcity, either online or in a newspaper or magazine. The article usually mentions that two thirds of the earth is covered in water, but only two percent is fresh water. The article was probably mentioning water shortages in a developed area in the world or a third world country. The main point of the article was probably focusing on the author’s position that there is a shortage of water. But is there a shortage of water? I’m going to go against the grain and say there is no shortage of water; only the lack of will to produce and supply the required water.

Take for example the central valley of California. Today the western portion of the valley is drying up, its main source of water dammed up, so to say, at the Sacramento River Delta. Successful environmental lawsuits have reduced the amount of water being pumped from the Delta to ten percent of what the system was designed for. This supposed water shortage is not caused by a lack of water, but a lack of wanting to allow water to be pumped further downstream and fierce opposition to a proposed canal in 1982. When the system was first built water was conveyed through the Delta. Water is discharged at the northern side of the Delta and then pumped out on the southern side of the Delta.

Back in 1982 it was proposed to finish the California Aqueduct by building a peripheral canal, moving water around the Delta, funded through bonds and requiring approval through a ballot initiative. Unfortunately, for Californians the United States as a whole, the measure was defeated. Today the peripheral canal is back on the drawing board with an estimated cost of $3 billion. There is no guarantee that peripheral canal will be built and the west side of the valley may go fallow due to a scarcity of water. The scarcity of water is not because there is a lack of it, only because there is a lack of will to provide the water. The central valley of California is important because it provides an estimated 25% of the United States food supply and large exporter to other countries.

Another example is the small community of San Simeon on the Central Coast of California. The seaside community has halted new home construction due to a lack of water. However the technology exists to provide as much water as the community requires. What the community lacks is the will to utilize the technology to provide the water. Why does the community not want to utilize the technology? Because a vocal portion does not want additional people moving into the town. For if the water is provided the empty lots located in the town would be allowed to be developed.Another example of not a water shortage problem, but a lack of will to provide the water.

If we take a look at most locations in the developed world I think you’d find the same thing. The claim of scarcity of water, but in reality the lack of will to provide the water a growing population requires to survive on this planet.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Next Apple Product: iWall?

Apple looks like its getting more transparent, while walking past the Apple Store in San Francisco I spied what must be their next product. I’m dubbing it the iWall. As you can see it comes with 3G and GPS and is quite a bit bigger than the iPad.

SanFran 017

Not sure how portable it will be, but I’m sure it will be billed as the next must have product from Apple. No word yet on if it comes with Apple TV capabilities.

How Often Does This Happen?

Not quite sure what’s going on in San Jose for the gas pumps to require these signs.

SanFran 001

Public Transportation

Yesterday I made my way from Arroyo Grande, CA (AG) to San Francisco, CA. The trip consisted of driving 218 miles from AG to the Fremont Bart Station, taking BART from the Fremont Station to the Montgomery Station and finally walking to the hotel I’m staying at. The public transportation, round trip, costs to me included $10 for long term parking, $11.20 for the BART ride and about three hours of my time (the difference between driving and taking public transportation). I did this to save the $46/day the hotel charged for overnight parking. So I saved $92.53 ($92+$21.73-$21.20), not including the money spent on printing the parking pass at FedEx Office or my time. I’ve read that the farebox recovery of BART is 58.4%, so the true cost of the trip is $19.18. Giving the total savings of $84.55. Since I’m adding 3 hours to my journey, I’m valuing my time at $28.18/hr. Google estimated my traveling costs at $21.73, based on the IRS tax deduction amount per mile.

Since my employer, and me sometimes, values my time at more than my savings per hour I probably should have driven to the hotel and paid for the parking.

All of this got me thinking on why isn’t public transportation better. I think it has everything to do with keeping the farebox recovery from coming even close to the 110% required to expand and grow the system organically. Due to the low farebox recovery rates public transportation is beholden to the government for funding expansions or providing better service. Budget priorities often delay or hinder the construction of system expansions. BART is currently in this situation because of the California budget problems. Its being forced to raise rates, or decrease service, due to cutbacks in the 41.6% of its budget that comes from gas tax money or the general fund.

If the farebox recovery rates covered the full cost of the trip BART would need to adjust fares based on ridership. If ridership goes up BART could choose between expanding service or reducing fares. If ridership goes down BART could adjust service to meet the current demand, by running trains less frequency. The true benefit of full farebox recovery is the ability to expand the system without requiring outside funds, except for issuing bonds to fund the construction. The tax payer would be relieved of having to pay for public transportation and the users of the system would have expanded service.

I guess the downfall of my idea is that a vocal portion of the public feels that people shouldn’t be forced to pay full fare for their trips. I just don’t get the logic in that. You force them into a bad public transportation system and limit their access to locations and places without providing a means for them to help improve their transportation options.

And if you are wondering I feel the gas taxes funding transportation projects should be inflation adjusted and meet all of the costs of maintaining and expanding the roadways.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

$25 Stimulus Payments

Wow, today I realized that there is a $25 Stimulus Payment/week included in my unemployment benefits. I’m not quite sure if this a joke on the government’s part. What am I supposed to do with this $25/week. It’s not enough to make my car payment, pay any of my utility bills or mortgage payment. I figure if the local County government is willing to wait 200 weeks I’ll be able to pay my property taxes which are due in April. I doubt the County is willing to wait that long. Well if I do spend all of my unemployment tax on taxable items it will almost pay for the sales tax I’m charged by the state and county ($37.13 v. $25).

I guess the best part is that I get to pay taxes on this stimulus amount. Or maybe that its that the money is being paid out with borrowed money so the true cost of this $25 is going to be quite a bit more than the original amount paid out.

I guess for some it’s even more of a problem. I’ve read some reports where people receiving the stimulus checks no longer qualify for food assistance since they now make too much money from unemployment.

This whole thing smells of buying votes by politicians. I’d settle for the government delaying the implementation of the new EPA regulations to help spur economic growth. This wouldn’t cost the government any money and provide an incentive for economic activity instead of a deterrent.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Its Not the 1930’s

You’d think that politicians would recognize that today is not the 1930’s and they have tools available today that don’t have to increase the national debt. The basic theory utilized today, and from the 1930’s, is that the government should step into the void and replace the spending of the private sector. In doing so the government runs a deficit, pumping money into the economy. The problem is that this doesn’t generate sustaining economic activity.

During normal times a developer develops a project, hiring contractors, architects and engineers. Hopefully he makes a project and takes some of the profit to start a new project or takes the success of the last project to solicit investments from investors for the next project. The contractor does a good job and is assured of getting future jobs and buys equipment or resources to reduce down time. Other people see the success of the developer and develops their own projects or invests in developments. The system provides hope of a better tomorrow.

If the system breaks down at some point, through a bubble, government regulations or a scarcity of resources the system breaks down. The developer doesn’t move on the next project, the contractor doesn’t buy new equipment and makes due with their current equipment and higher maintenance costs, fishing boats are put out of business, etc. Sometimes the slow down happens slowly like in the 1980s and sometimes it ends in a large crash like it has recently.

The problem with government stimulus is that the government decides the winners and losers and doesn’t provide much visibility in the future. If your a contractor working on stimulus funded projects would you buy equipment with a 5 year lifespan or overhaul your 5 year old equipment. Currently, based on Caterpillar sales, I would say many contractors are doing the cheaper overhauls.

There is still money out there ready and willing to invest in projects. Unfortunately it’s sitting on the sidelines, most likely in government treasuries used to pump money into the economy. Ironic isn’t it. The government has tools at it’s disposal to get the money on the sidelines to jump back in. Mainly they have the ability of extracting the government out of the way of projects already planned. Sometimes it’s projects the government is funding themselves.

While working at the County of San Luis Obispo on bridge replacement projects, the main impediment was the permitting process. There are still bridges working through the permitting process ten years after they were started. Imagine all of the bridge projects that could be done if the government stepped out of the way of its self and had those projects started? Imagine if the government said they were streamlining the permitting process for bridge replacement projects for a period of 5 years and that it would take no longer than 3 months for the necessary permits to be processed. The bridge contractors would have the visibility to purchase new equipment for those projects.

Another example may be found up and down the coast of California in the form of the Coastal Commission. I think the Coastal Commission was set up to protect the coast, but it mainly operates as an extortion ring. Want to build your house on your property, well you’ll have to pay for stairs so people can go through your property and make it to the beach. Want to get a permit to relicense your nuclear power plant? That will cost you a trail along the road to the main gate of the power plant. There are some desalinization water plants planned along the coast of California funded with private financing. Many of these projects are being delayed going through the permit process. How about streamlining the process to get these projects built? It doesn’t cost the government anything, except for providing good services to the people. Imagine if the Coastal Commission was put on hiatus how many investors would get off the sidelines and invest in projects before the extortion agency was reinstated.

Numerous people are out of work in the San Joaquin valley of California. You’d think it was a product of the current economic malaise, but it’s because a court ruling regarding pumping of water from the California delta. Many farmers who are the beneficiary of the pumping of the delta water have had to make their fields fallow, putting many people out of work. You can take a look at the area in this unemployment video. Its the dark area in California at the start of the video. The government could provide a solution to this problem or restart the pumps putting people back to work. The ruling in question was to protect an endangered species, unfortunately the ruling puts at risk around 20 other endangered species who benefited from the pumping of the water.

My point is the government has the ability to fix the current economic problems without spending money they don’t have. They could simply get out of the way and let people get back to work.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Does Taxing the Rich Help Me?

The United States has a progressive income tax system, the more you make the higher percentage of income tax you pay. Some in Congress, and the President, are advocating that certain tax cuts on those making over $250,000 expire (the tax rate would go from 33% to 36% for money earned from $250k to $373K and from 35% to 39.6%). I’m not quite sure how this benefits me, a furloughed Civil Engineer. If anything I only see negatives from this for me.

It doesn’t balance the federal budget, it only “helps”. If anything it prolongs me getting a job by pulling money out of the economy. I work in an industry that is largely discretionary in nature. Governments have the discretion to improve and maintain the government owned infrastructure. Land owners, and their investor partners, have the discretion on whether to improve the land they own (with the governments permission). While the government spending has increased it has not increased adequately to compensate for the decreases in the private sector. Who funds the private sector developments? Last time I checked it’s not the person behind the counter serving me fries. It tends to be people who have a large amount of discretionary income, the very people the taxes will affect.

Now a large part of the problem is that people have lost faith and aren’t using their discretionary spending on land development. I can’t really blame them. If they had some of their money invested in land development during this current bust they probably lost some money. Locally there has been two or three investment funds go bust. There’s also a lot of housing and commercial stock on the market which needs to be filled up with families or employees. Taxing the rich only delays this.

Now what could the government do that would really help get investors back into the game? How about getting out of the way? The first step could be requiring federal and local agencies to deal with permit requests within 10 working days. Any time period beyond that time the governmental agency would pick up the tab for the costs involved in the delay (interest, inflation, etc.). This would remove a large portion of the risk in land development and provide an incentive to investors to reenter the market. Best of all it wouldn’t increase the national debt.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Why do I have to Pick the State?

Sometimes it’s the little things. If you have a website and are collecting user information why not fill out the state for me? Trust me I’m not from Alabama and I doubt I will ever live there. Sure I could be travelling out of town, but for the majority of the time I’ll be surfing at home.

If you don't want to put the effort into figuring out what State I'm from, how about filling in the state the majority of your customers come from. For instance if you are a small engineering firm in San Luis Obispo how about putting the default state as California. I'll know that you pay attention to details and desire to make working with you easier.

Now if you don't have a website or collect information from people I apologize if you now notice when the state isn't your own when you're filling out forms.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dear Sustainability Movement,

Please cease and desist all claims of saving the planet in promotional, educational and propaganda materials. I’ve done a simple calculation that indicates to me that the movement is not sustaining the planet, but is delaying the destruction of the planet. My main concern with claims of providing sustainability is the complete lack of attention the movement puts on population growth.

For instance I’ve taken a look at the energy consumption for the State of California between 1970 and 2000. The population figures for the state of California are below from the US Census.

1970 California Population: 19,953,134

2000 California Population: 33,871,648

Below is the Energy Consumption for the state of California and per person:

1970: 41,844,077 Energy Units : 2.09 Energy Units/person

2000: 61,337,853 Energy Units : 1.81 Energy Units/person

As indicated in the above numbers California became approximately 14% more energy efficient, or more sustainable, between 1970 and 2000. Unfortunately due to population increases California utilized 146% more energy in the year 2000 compared to 1970. I’m not quite sure how this energy use could be considered sustainable.

The same pattern is detectable in other areas focused in on by the sustainability movement such as land use, water use and daylighting. Without a focus on population growth the sustainability movement is destined to fail. There is no feasible way the concepts and ideas can be considered sustainable without controlling population growth. The UN calculates the World’s population went from 3,685,777,000 to 6,115,367,000 from 1970 to 2000. Additionally projections of the World’s population is to increase by an additional 1.2 billion people by 2030. Without a major shift to population growth sustainability will never be achieved.

Here are some ideas to include sustainability in the movement to become realistically sustainable:

  • A requirement for residential buildings have Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions to limit the number of children people can have. China’s current children policy of "One is best, two at most, but never a third" appears to be affecting change there in population growth.
  • Much in the same way as the LEED process encourages the use of electrical vehicles the same could be done with limiting children. Businesses occupying LEED rated buildings could require policies that discourage employees having children. Such as not providing benefits for the third child and more.
  • Encourage businesses to focus on dividends instead of growth.
  • Remove tax credits children and replace it with an increased tax rate for families with three or more children.

While I can understand why the movement is not going in this direction, for fear of upsetting people, I fully expect without changes like this the movement is destined to fail and never reach the goal of sustainability.


Christopher Fugitt, PE, LEED AP

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Government’s Mortgage Mess?

Today I deposited my first unemployment check. I’ve also listened, read and watched the President RateTabledemand that banks, who paid back the TARP money with interest, refund the government for the TARP money the government won’t get back from other failed companies who did not make it. That doesn’t sound quite fair considering the government has a big hand in causing people to loose their home. Much has been made about banks providing loans to people who couldn’t afford it, but what hasn’t been covered is the way unemployment is paid out which impacts the middle class causing them to lose their homes.

In the State of California unemployment is paid at 50% of your salary up to $46,696.04/yr. After this point for each dollar you earned before loosing your job you don’t get any benefits. Because of this, at least in my case, means I’m getting around 30 cents on the dollar. Considering when banks  give out home loans they want to keep housing costs maximized at 30% of income, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the math doesn’t work and people are loosing homes.

Now it’s nice and easy to blame banks for the mortgage mess, but I think it’s time the politicians acknowledge that it’s not all the bank’s fault for houses falling in default. Now I’m not calling for the government to raise the amount I get for unemployment, I’m just wishing that they’d stop blaming the banks.

Now what’s really bizarre is that if I do loose my house the purchasers will get a $6,500 (or $8,000 for new home buyers) tax credit. Remember that a tax credit is subtracted directly from the tax paid, so it’s essentially a government check to the purchasers of homes. If I did the math correctly that means that the purchasers of my home would get an additional $1,725 (or $3,225) over than the amount it would have taken for me to get paid at a 50% rate (for the 13 weeks unemployment benefits last). At a 50% rate I have a better chance of keeping my home without further assistance. At half that I don’t really have a chance, if I remain unemployed long term, to keep my home without further assistance.

In this blog post loosing my house means selling it, not foreclosure, unless the housing market falls further.

In case you wanted to know how unemployment is paid, from the State of California’s website:

“UI is paid by the employer. Tax-rated employers pay a percentage on the first $7,000 in wages paid to each employee in a calendar year. The UI rate schedule and amount of taxable wages are determined annually. New employers pay 3.4 percent (.034) for up to three years. EDD notifies employers of their new rate each December. The maximum tax is $434 per employee per year. (Calculated at the highest UI tax rate of 6.2 percent x $7,000.)”

Sunday, January 3, 2010


It’s interesting seeing what people’s reactions are to questionable calls are. I was recently dealt AQ of hearts and raised it to 2x's the big blind early in a SNG. The small blind raised it up and the big blind folded and I called the raise. The flop came out 6h, 7d, 3h giving me a flush draw. I made a small bet thinking that if the other person probably didn’t get anything from the flop. Unfortunately he raised it up to 630 indicating he probably either hit or had a high pair. I decided to risk it and go all in with my remaining 1290 chips. The other person called and showed Ks, Kh. Fortunately for me 7h came on the turn and a Jh came on the river. I won the pot with an ace high flush. The person who didn’t win came back and called me a “loser”.

I’m not quite sure what the person was trying to accomplish with the comment. I would think he’d want me to feel good about hitting the flush because it wasn’t the best call. Early in the SNG I should probably waiting for a better time to put all of my chips in the middle, for instance when I had hit a flop. By coming back with the comment the other player made me think about my play and why he thought it would be the wrong play. The next time I might not make that bet and I probably wouldn’t have hit my flush and he wouldn’t get all of my chips. I’m sure he felt somewhat good about the comment, but in the long run it will probably cost him chips.