All posts by joe

American Southwest Pictures

New pictures of the American Southwest roadtrip — Berkeley, California to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, are now up on  This was the first time in years that I’ve taken out my SLR, and it was a fun time and place to take pictures.  The full moon helped to create some eerie effects, particularly at the Grand Canyon.  Suzanne made me a tripod carrier for Christmas, which was great to make it easier to bring the tripod along everywhere.  I got several pictures including constellations — Big Dipper and Pleiades.  We also got started on winter camping, including camping in the snow at the Grand Canyon.

Picture of Camping at the Grand Canyon

A Biased And Incomplete Guide To The Bay Area

A friend from college, now living in the UK, recently wrote me to ask where to look when considering a move to the San Francisco Bay Area, with these criteria:

  1. Good schools in the area (and I know this makes homes much more expensive!), but we won’t rule out private school if we need to
  2. No more than an hour from the airport
  3. In an area where we can walk to things like shops, restaurants, parks, etc.

My reply got a little out of control in terms of length, so I’m re-posting here in case it can be useful to anyone else.

* * *

One could really write a medium-sized guidebook based on this, but I’ll give you the best overview I can and you can let me know if you need more information.  I just got married and so have no children, so my sense of public schools is not super-well developed; what I’m giving you here is a general sense that you should confirm with more detailed research.

North Bay 

North bay is Marin, Sonoma, and Napa Counties.  They are, in general, wealthier.  I don’t know anything about their public school systems but I think can safely infer that most of them are going to be pretty good, given the average household income — although double check that on bigger cities like San Rafael (pronounced “San Rafell”).  Continue reading A Biased And Incomplete Guide To The Bay Area

How I Voted

I’m going through my Alameda County vote-by-mail ballot and decided to share what I’m thinking and links to useful resources.

If you haven’t already also consider registering to vote by mail — link to form for Alameda County residents (pdf).  Easier to think about it that way; you can still drop it off at your local polling station on Election Day.

UPDATED 3pm 10/31 to include Berkeley rent board, school directors, and AC Transit/BART directors.  I still have to do Berkeley ballot measures at some point, hopefully tomorrow.

UPDATED 5pm 11/4 to include Berkeley bond measures.

State Ballot Initiatives

This is by far the most work to think about each of these initiatives.  I exclusively used Ballotpedia to get information, which has a  list of the ballot initiatives here. My links below jump directly to the “Supporters” section of the respective Ballotpedia entry (and the “Opponents” section below it) for each measure.  I found those sections very useful to “follow the money” and generally gave me a pretty quick idea of which side I’m on.

  • Prop 30. Yes. Tax increase to spend on education.  League of Women Voters (“LWV”) and California Democratic Party support.
  • Prop 31. No. Two year state budget rule, with various constraints on how the budget can be structured.  While I’m really sure that California really needs a total restructuring of its budget process, this didn’t seem fully through through enough to warrant a vote for it. Continue reading How I Voted

Friedman on Race To The Top Programs

Nice piece by Friedman on Obama’s “race to the top” fuel efficiency and school reforms.

“So Romney wants to throw away our cheapest, cleanest oil — the stuff we make in Detroit through greater mileage efficiency — and replace it with the world’s most expensive and dirty oil from the Canadian tar sands . . . . That’s a swap only the Koch brothers could dream up.”

NCDC 1981-2000 Average Temperatures On Google Maps

I’m taking a road trip through the southwest this winter, and was interested in seeing a map of average temperatures so we would know what we’d be driving through.

When I couldn’t find any easily, I decided to see if I could plot data from the National Climate Data Center [FTP] via the Google Maps API.  I loaded the NCDC flat files from that FTP link into a MySQL database, and then exported it into Google Map objects (php writing out javascript objects). Continue reading NCDC 1981-2000 Average Temperatures On Google Maps

SF to Berkeley Bike Ride.

One of my favorite rides — looking forward to doing this again when my broken wrist is healed. There’s a lot of great parks that line the Bay, and it is fun to see the whole SF Bay area in a day. I often stay closer to the East Bay shore, going through Oyster Bay and Hayward Regional Shorelines. I also tend to think it works better in reverse, since either way you are going into the wind in the afternoon and the winds seem to be lighter on the East Bay side. I recommend bringing a lot of water and food (you’re in the Bay Area, but there are 10-20 mile stretches where there are no drinking fountains or convenience stores) and either a good map or a GPS-enabled phone (perhaps both).

View Berkeley – San Francisco bike ride in a larger map