Category Archives: California

Morgan Hill superintendent’s statement on the Flag Four

Straight from the horse’s mouth:

Good evening. This is Dr. Wesley Smith, Superintendent of the Morgan Hill Unified School District.

The Morgan Hill Unified School District does not prohibit nor do we discourage wearing patriotic clothing. The incident on May 5 at Live Oak High School is extremely unfortunate. While campus safety is our primary concern and administrators made decisions yesterday in an attempt to ensure campus safety, students should not, and will not, be disciplined for wearing patriotic clothing. This situation and our response are under review.

We know that this is an emotionally charged topic. We would ask you to encourage your students to be safe and focus on their academics while in school. If conversations and/or activities are necessary to express their feelings on this issue, we will find appropriate venues that do not disturb student learning or jeopardize the safety of our students. Furthermore, we encourage everyone to demonstrate respect for each other, open communication, and responsibility.

Thank you for your support and understanding.

in other words, the assistant principal who caused this mess just got pitched under the bus, and Dr. Smith would really appreciate it if all y’all stayed in school instead of going downtown chanting “We want respect!” while offering none to your adopted nation.


Filed under California, FAIL

Don’t buy from

Long story short: their customer support is poor, they don’t stand behind their products, and they aren’t honest about either.

I bought two electric Airsoft rifles for Dave and Tom for Christmas. Tom’s was fine; David’s was poorly designed and built. I got an RMA for it the day after Christmas, then had to fight with them for months before getting a partial refund. First they ignored me, then they claimed that the rifle had been damaged in return shipping (but couldn’t produce a UPS claim), then they claimed that it was damaged before shipping.

I eventually had to dispute the charge with my bank. The whole thing was a big hassle and not worth the few bucks that I might have saved by buying from them instead of a more reputable vendor.

Avoid them.

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Filed under California, FAIL, Smackdown!

Power to the people, California style

My office is currently suffering our second power outage of the year. Earlier this year, a plane carrying Tesla employees crashed into power lines, knocking out power to much of Palo Alto. Yesterday, a transformer in our office park failed, killing power to our building and the one next door. Incredibly, 18 hours later, we’re still without power! People here delight in looking down their noses at places like Athens, Alabama or Houma, Louisiana, but certainly I was never without electricity for longer than an hour or two, even during weather that would make the average Californian run for shelter.

Interestingly, outages seem to be a Palo Alto theme: there have been several other notable outages, and at least one other company has moved to neighboring Mountain View to get more reliable electric service.

Our critical servers are protected with UPS systems, but those only help provide time for a clean shutdown, not for ongoing operations. Our landlords arranged for a 1-megawatt diesel generator to tide us over; it’s set up in the parking lot but isn’t yet providing power to the building. The utility estimates that it will take two or three days to make the necessary repairs and get us back online. In the meantime, I have a fully-charged laptop and a mostly-charged MiFi, so at least I can get a few things done.

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A few things I learned at Scout outdoor leader training

I attended the first part of the Boy Scouts of America "Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills" course this weekend. Here’s a brief summary of the major things I learned:

  • I’m not dyslexic, but I might as well be when it comes to tying knots. I tend to interchangeably use my right and left hands, and that meant that it took me about five times longer to learn how to tie some of the stupid things. I’ll be practicing this week.
  • The Chesebrough Scout reservation is a beautiful facility, but it doesn’t have any AT&T coverage (or, at least, not much).
  • A cardboard box, cut properly, makes a dandy split for lower-arm breaks or ankle injuries.
  • Black electrical tape is better than duct tape or masking tape for securing slings, splints, etc. It’s just sticky enough, and it stretches more than the other types, but not so much as to be useless.
  • When traveling in bear country, use unscented sunscreen to keep from becoming a bear magnet. You should also plan on wearing special clothes just for sleeping—if you sleep in your day clothes, they’ll have food scents on them, and bears love a good food scent.
  • The best way to test the fit of your hiking boots is to walk downhill. (More boot fitting tips here.)
  • The Scouts’ "Leave No Trace" program is surprisingly comprehensive; its principles include only camping and traveling on durable surfaces, minimizing campfire use, and attempting to avoid disturbing wildlife.
  • Your kitchen is probably a pit of filth, even if you’ve just cleaned it. (The food safety/prep class was a real eye-opener. Good thing it was delivered right before lunch!)

The second half of the training takes place Friday night and Saturday; we’ll be pitching tents, camping and cooking outdoors, and all that good stuff. Should be big fun.

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Filed under California, General Stuff

Official California: gypsy moths

So Tuesday morning, the Atlas Van Lines truck showed up right on time. The driver handed Arlene a form.

"What’s this for?" she asked.

"Gypsy moth quarantine," said the driver. "Yer s’posed to have it when ya move here."

It turns out that the great state of California requires you to have your belongings inspected for the dreaded gypsy moth. Then again, maybe they don’t. Santa Clara County says yes, but other sources say no. I went ahead and called the inspectors to come check out the kids’ toys (which were pretty much the only outdoor thing we brought from Ohio), but no one came.

Of course, it might have helped if someone had told us before the move that we’d need an inspection. I mean, by the time the truck’s unloaded, these hypothetical moths would have free run of our yard… if all the rain didn’t kill them first, but that’s another post.

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Official California: the DMV

So yesterday I had my first real “official California” experience. You’ve probably heard all about the state government here: the problems with bloated pensions, the budget, the knuckleheads in Sacramento, and so forth. I was worried about having to deal with the DMV, because– really– does any state have a good one?

First I hit this extremely useful unofficial DMV guide. It was a lifesaver. The fun started when I wanted to make an appointment. The web-based interface for doing so is ugly, but functional, (and hey, at least they have one, unlike Ohio), but I was really surprised to find that the soonest I could schedule an appointment was… yesterday, or almost three weeks from my scheduling attempt. There weren’t any better times available at any of the other offices that are quasi-near my office, so I decided to wait the three weeks instead of trying to show up and get in.

Second hurdle: you need to fill out a form 44 to get your license, but you can’t get one online; they’re all individually barcoded. So much for being prepared. Anyway, I showed up yesterday (about 15 minutes late, sad to say). When I got there, I waited in line for 5 minutes or so, got a copy of form 44, and was sent to fill it out. After filling it out, I got back in line, spent some time with the nice appointments lady (10 min, say), sat and waited for 10 minutes, went to a different window to have my documents verified and pay, went to yet another window to wait in line to get my picture taken (10 min), got a rules-of-the-road test form, took the test, and waited for it to be graded (15 min). At the end of all this, I walked out $30 poorer with a paper “provisional license” and a promise that my real license would be in the mail in two or three weeks.

Was it bad? No, but a far cry from the efficiency and speed of even the Bowling Green office of the Ohio DMV. I still have to go back and register our vehicles, too. Le sigh.

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California roundup: one month in

Today is Labor Day, which means it’s the start of the third full week that David and I have been living in California, and my fifth overall. I miss Arlene, Matt, and Tom so much! I can’t wait to see them again on the 25th, right before we close the sale of our house in Ohio.

A few assorted thoughts on being a newly-minted Californian.

  1. I am adapting to traffic and commute times. Note that I didn’t say I liked them, just that it seems like I’m getting used to them again, much as when I lived in Atlanta. David has seminary each school day at 0650, so once I drop him off I can usually be at my office between 0745 and 0800. That usually makes me the first one in, which is fine with me. On days when he has football practice, he’s done about 1830, which leaves me plenty of time to leave the office and still get him on time. Of course, once Arlene, Matt, and Tom are here I’ll be able to take the train more often.
  2. Speaking of which: I took the train last week to get back to Morgan Hill after dropping off my rental car. It worked fine. It’s about 40 miles each way from Morgan Hill to my office. The Saab gets about 28 mpg in mixed city/highway driving, so figure (5 * 40 * 2) / 28 ~= 14 gallons of gas per week, or about $44 at today’s gas price. Train tickets cost $7.75 each way, or $52.75 for an 8-ride pass, or $205 for a monthly pass. Thus I’m paying a slight premium to be able to sit and work, or read, or whatever instead of just sitting in traffic. Not a bad trade, it seems.
  3. It seems like these guys are everywhere. I see at least three or four cruisers each day going to and from work. Kinda makes the Ohio Highway Patrol look like slackers.
  4. The weather seems to have two states: pleasant and hot.

Work? Work is awesome. I am still enthralled with what I’m doing in three respects. First, we have an extremely talented and smart team. Second, I continue to be impressed with the tutoring engine and what I’m leaning from it. Third, I am having great fun setting up our experimental Exchange 2010 environment. Compared to what we have now, Exchange 2010 is light-years ahead. It’s like moving from this to this.

Our typical daily routine is to get up around 0545, shower, and grab breakfast at the hotel. I drop David off at seminary, drive to work, work, and then pick him up again after football. We’ve really done a good job of eating in: turkey burgers, salmon, pasta-in-a-bag, and so on are all typical fare. Arlene sent us a crock pot but I broke it about 2 minutes after it got here, so that hasn’t been much help. We definitely miss her cooking!

Weekends have been quite a bit more relaxed. Saturday David and I went to the 144th annual Scottish Highland Gathering and Games. It was everything we hoped for: there were pipers, the Marine Band San Diego, Scottish Heavy Athletics, and sheep-dog trials. Sadly I didn’t get to have a Scottish egg, as the line was about 45 minutes long. Apart from that, though, it was delightful, and it’s nice to know they’ll be in the same place at the same weekend next year in case we get a hankering to go back. Sunday we did essentially nothing except attending church, devouring a Costco take-and-bake five-meat pizza we bought Saturday, and driving around to look at houses we found on RealtyTrac. For our evening entertainment, we watched the first part of “Torchwood: Children of Earth” (brilliant so far!) and an episode from the first season of House. We’ve also been reading a lot; the library system here is quite well-stocked and has many of the amenities we came to expect from Way Library.

Today David has some friends from church over to swim in the hotel pool while I write. Interestingly, even though today’s a holiday, he still has football practice at the usual time, so once I drop him off I’m going to look at a couple of rental houses. Right now we’re leaning towards renting for a year, letting our equity from the Ohio house marinate in a nice CD while we wait to find exactly the perfect house. Tomorrow it’s back to the weekday routine!

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