Sunday, June 3, 2018

New Website and URL for Valley Dude

I am excited to announce that Valley Dude has its own new website here at!!  I will be keeping this site up as an archive for previous posts.  It is still a work in progress, but I hope you enjoy the new website as much as I do.

Friday, May 25, 2018

June 5 - Primary Election Ballot Recommendations

Hi all - yes, once again it is time for my ballot recommendations.  For convenience, I have attached a link to the California Voter Information Guide here, which gives a summary of the statewide  initiatives on this ballot.

Whatever you do, please be sure to exercise our precious right to vote.  No matter how much money or power public officials have, we can each exercise our franchise the best way we see fit. 

Elected offices:
  • Governor - Delaine Eastin
  • Lt. Governor - Gayle McLaughlin 
  • Secretary of State - Alex Padilla
  • Attorney General - Xavier Becerra
  • Treasurer - Visak Viswanathan
  • CA State Senator 18th District - Bob Hertzberg
  • CA State Assembly 46th District - Adrin Nazarian
  • U.S. Senator - Pat Harris
  • U.S. Representative 30th District - Brad Sherman
State Measures
  • Proposition 68 - YES.  This is a $4 billion bond dedicated to parks, natural resources, climate change adaptation, water quality and flood protection.  
  • Proposition 69 - NO.  This requires that certain revenues from a 2017 transporatation law only be used for transportation.  Sounds good in theory except this is a constitutional amendment.  I generally oppose ballot box budgeting, but even when it does make sense it should not be via an amendment to the state constitution.  Lawmakers can fix this through standard legislation - this is a ridiculous proposition.
  • Proposition 70 - NO.  This would require a super majority vote to spend cap and trade funds beginning in 2024, which would make it very difficult to appropriate funds.  I think this is a bad idea.
  • Proposition 71 - YES.  Gives 5 days to count the vote before a ballot initiative becomes becomes law.  
  • Proposition 72 - YES.  This excludes newly constructed rain capture systems from property tax reassesments.  Normally I would say no to this kind of thing, but anything we can do to preserve our precious resource of water is a must. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

What do we do now?

As our country processes yet another devastating school shooting, I came across this rather shocking statistic from the Washington Post - there have been more students killed in 2018 than U.S. Service members.  As my mind reeled about the continued inability for Congress to do something - anything - in response to an accelerating crisis, I realized our problems are so much deeper than just tightening access to guns (which still needs to happen).  Unlike the Parkland shooting, in this instance the killer used a shotgun and a .38 revolver that he obtained from his father.

I can imagine folks who oppose sensible gun control measures will point to this tragedy as a continued reason to do nothing - after all, an assault weapons ban and background checks would likely not have been a factor in preventing this terrible incident.  That's a little like saying requiring seat belts don't prevent all deaths so why bother to have seat belts at all.  Let's not forget an AR-15 was used at Parkland.  And if "smart" technology were required on guns (i.e., a gun only can fire when it recognizes the biometrics of its registered owner), then it's possible the shooter may not have been able to carry out his plan with his father's weapons.  It's possible that none of that may have helped.  But we need to try.

My point is not just to say we need sensible action on guns - we do - but we need to change our national dialogue to recognize the humanity in each other.  Our response needs to not just come from Congress and statehouses, but our national consciousness.  How does a 17 year old high school student become a killer anyway?  What happened along the way that detached him so much from those around him?  If we only focus on guns than we are missing the deeper strains on how we support our children and each other.  Lack of investment in education, health care, economic growth and labor make it easier for hate and blame to seep its way into our being.  Easier for adults to dehumanize and berate people who are not quite like them.   These threads of thought and the broader deterioration of civility make their way to our children, and not necessarily from parents.  I will say however having unlocked guns in the house implicates a lack of gravity and understanding - or even sympathy - about what these weapons can do to our fellow human beings. 

As these tragedies increase, the absence of leadership across the spectrum in declaring that the United States is in crisis leads to an acceptance that this is the new "normal". 

We can blame Donald Trump for exacerbating and normalizing it through the power of the White House, and that much is true.  But this has been going on for a long time.  Sandy Hook happened in 2012.  Columbine happened in 1999.  Since Columbine, 141 children have been killed and 284 have been injured.  Over 200,000 kids have been exposed to school shootings.  This is the 16th school shooting in 2018.  Let's also not forget the 400 people that have been shot and killed so far by police in 2018.  Why is there not uniform and sustained outrage?  How is this now normal?

I will say it.  The United States is in an existential crisis.  I can think of a gazillion things that might be helpful in terms of public policy.   And we should do some of them.  But the first step in all of this is we must recognize that we are all human, and we all need each other.  The values we hold with each other are the values that we pass to our children.  We need to start here.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Review - Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One came out years ago - 2011 - and I've long wanted to read it.  Not too long after it came out I picked up the book, the real kind with pages, not the Kindle version I usually read these days, and it has been sitting in my house for years, including through two moves across the country.  Still in perfect shape.  There's a movie coming out next year that's based on the book, and me being me I wanted to read it before the movie came out.  But that wasn't what ultimately got me off of (or rather forced me to sit on) my duff and read the book.  Rather, I had just finished reading Version Control by Dexter Palmer, a slightly mind bending exploration set in the future about the nature of reality and spacetime.  And I really liked that book.  All of a sudden I heard Ready Player One calling my name, beckoning me into its own version of the future, with its attendant lookback into the 80's culture I was steeped in as a teenager.

The book opens in Oklahoma City, where our hero, Wade Watts, is living in what is known as "the stacks".  We quickly find out that the stacks are towers of mobile homes "stacked" on top of each other, held up by scaffolding and platforms that provide access to each trailer, which essentially is a "floor".  The stacks serve as a symbol for the widespread and systemic decay that has hit the United States, where fuel and energy are incredibly scarce, jobs are few and far between, and infrastructure is crumbling.  Wade's only escape is into a fantastical immersive virtual reality simulation, known as the OASIS, coded by one James Halliday.  The OASIS consists of worlds, starships, realms, you name it - all populated by anyone having access to the tools needed to enter into it - essentially a VR visor and sensory gloves.  A user of the OASIS creates an avatar, and Wade names his "Parzival".  Wade even attends school in the OASIS, where he logs in from his hideout in an abandoned van in a junkyard.  Wade has no friends in reality, and only one friend in the OASIS.

When James Halliday dies, he leaves behind a will that creates a contest - a contest that is essentially a treasure hunt through the OASIS in which the contestants are looking for an "egg".  The one who finds the egg will inherit Halliday's fortune.  The thing about the contest is James Halliday was also an obsessive 80's culture geek, and the contest as you might expect requires a good deal of knowledge about the 80's (Fun!).  And Wade, growing up, made it his business to study James Halliday, and becomes obsessed with finding the egg as a way out of his meager circumstances, along with hordes of other egg hunters called "gunters".  As you might expect, bad guys are also interested in Halliday's fortune, including the corporate behemoth known as IOI.

The contest quickly becomes an interesting play on the nature of relationships in the virtual world and the meaning of those relationships - including Parzival's relationship with "Art3mis", the book's heroine, other friends he meets along the way, and the interaction with the bad guys through the story.  These relationships and interplay make the Ready Player One highly entertaining and a quick read.  I also very much enjoyed the 80's geekiness throughout the book (maybe you won't but I absolutely loved it).

If you would like a combo of action, sci fi, fantasy, and a healthy dollop of 80's game and movie culture thrown in, I would highly recommend this book. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Coldplay at the Rose Bowl!

Gorgeous night at the Rose Bowl - Coldplay put on a fun and energetic show.  Opening act was Tove Lo, who wound up sitting a few seats down from us once Coldplay went on stage!  More pictures after the jump.

View of the main stage, full moon visible at top of picture

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

In The Name Of Civility

I'm simply at a loss these last couple of days.  I feel like our fragile bond of civility is careening towards a cliff, intentionally being driven there by both public and private actors, accelerating faster with each month.  The tragic shooting in Las Vegas is simultaneously one of disbelief, sadness and outrage.  It is not just disturbing in its scope, terror and senselessness - it feels like it is part of a broader pattern of collective madness that has gripped our country, coupled with a sense of powerlessness to do anything about it.

I struggle with the fact that Congress is poised to pass a bill actually loosening restrictions on gun silencers and the sale of armor piercing bullets.

I struggle with the reactionary anger over NFL players protesting - peacefully - the epidemic of violence and incarceration in our justice system that is impacting African American communities.   The protest is about civil rights, not vets, the military, the flag, or the anthem (although you may not know that there is a verse of the Star Spangled Banner that celebrated the capture and killing of slaves.  If you don't believe me the full text is here).

I struggle with the fact that the President threw paper towels at hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, told the mayor of San Juan that the people of Puerto Rico are not doing enough to help themselves, suggested that hurricane Maria was not a real disaster like Katrina. 

I struggle with the fact that 9 million children just lost healthcare as Congress let CHIP - the Children’s Health Insurance Program - expire.  CHIP provides funding to provide insurance to children, reducing the uninsured rate of kids to 5%.   A bipartisan approach was generally agreed upon until the last GOP push to kill the ACA got in the way and failed, which derailed the CHIP renewal.

I struggle with the Commander in Chief undercutting his own Secretary of State’s efforts to diffuse the situation with North Korea.  This guy wants a war.

I struggle with Trump and the GOP trying to push through tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest Americans, including the Trump family.

I struggle with Trump referencing some of the white nationalist marchers in Charlottesville as "very fine people".

I struggle with the fact that I didn't even know we had U.S. Special Forces in Niger until we just found out three of them were killed.

I struggle with the knowledge that the Trump campaign may have assisted the Russians in targeting of Facebook ads in key swing districts.

I could go on.  Bill O'Reilly called the Las Vegas shootings the "price of freedom".  No really, he said it.  The White House said "now is not the time" to have a gun debate. 

Are we really powerless to stop this madness?  Madmen gain power when we feel powerless.  But it doesn't have to be this way.  Yes, Donald Trump sits in the highest office in the land.  But he is still a small, insecure bully who thrives off of fear and division.  When we begin to listen to each other, respect each other, care for each other, when we can see each other - we can begin to heal ourselves and our civility.  Donald Trump and the nationalistic crazies only have as much power as we are willing to give them. 

John F. Kennedy said "Those who make peaceful revolution possible will make violent revolution inevitable".  Let us begin our peaceful revolution, one based in love of our fellow human beings.  As Americans, it is our duty to uphold the ideals that, while we have traveled a long way towards reaching, still require us to reach ever further to fulfill.  Let us, We the People, form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, fulfill the promise of the Constitution for the United States of America.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The real meaning of "heritage"

Josh Marshall gives some very good context for the "heritage" of the statue of Robert E. Lee the white supremacist march in Charlottesville was trying to save. These are bad people. They came ready to fight with guns, shields, knives and a philosophy of segregation and racial supremacy. Anyone willing to drive a car into a crowd of people is no better than ISIS planting a car bomb in a crowd of people. Addtionally, David Duke and others praising Trump's response in the aftermath of Charlottesville speaks for itself. There is no ambiguity here - we have a president supported by white supremacists, and his base is more energized than ever.