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November 17, 2017

On Private Property, Innovator "Can Try New Ideas Without as Much Red Tape"



(p. B1) SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Molly Jackson, an 82-year-old retired nurse, was sitting in the back seat of a self-driving taxi when the vehicle jerked to a halt at a crossing as its computer vision spotted an approaching golf cart.

When the vehicle, a modified Ford Fusion developed by a start-up named Voyage, started to inch forward, it abruptly stopped again as the golfers pressed ahead and cut in front of the car.

Ms. Jackson seemed unfazed by the bumpy ride. As a longtime resident of the Villages Golf and Country Club, a retirement community in San Jose, Calif., she knew all about aggressive golf cart drivers.

"I like that; we made a good stop there," Ms. Jackson said. "I stop for them. They say we don't have to, but I do."


. . .


The speed limit, just 25 miles an hour, helps reduce the risk if something goes wrong. And because it is private property, the company does not have to share ride information with regulators and it can try new ideas without as much red tape.

(p. B6) Cars that can drive themselves could be a great benefit to older people. Residents at the Villages say that once people stop driving, they often pull back from activities and interacting with friends.



For the full story, see:

DAISUKE WAKABAYASHI. "Where Cars Brake for Golf Carts." The New York Times (Thurs., OCT. 5, 2017): B1 & B6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 4, 2017, and has the title "Where Driverless Cars Brake for Golf Carts.")






November 14, 2017

Washington, D.C. Regulators Protect Citizens from Goat Yoga



GoatYogaInGlendaleCalifornia2017-10-09.jpg"Goat yoga has spread nationwide since last year. Practitioners in Glendale, Calif., in May." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A1) WASHINGTON--Young goats have on occasion grazed in the Historic Congressional Cemetery, deployed to keep down brush. A yoga instructor has been holding weekly classes in the chapel.

Goats and yoga go together, as any modern yogi knows. So, cemetery staff proposed this spring, why not combine them and bring inner peace to all on the grounds?

"I asked the farmer if there's any harm to the goats doing yoga," says Kelly Carnes, who teaches the discipline on the cemetery grounds. "She said quite the opposite--the baby goats just love to interact with humans."

Gruff was the response from District of Columbia officials. District policy, they decreed, prohibited the human-animal contact goat yoga presented: "At this time the request for the event with the inclusion of baby goats has been denied."


. . .


(p. A12) This spring at the Congressional Cemetery, Ms. Carnes read about goat yoga and raised the idea with participants in her "yoga mortis" classes at the cemetery. They were "crazy to try it," she says.

She spoke with Paul Williams, president of the nonprofit that manages the cemetery, about trying it with the goats they had twice hired over the past several years to eat down unwanted plants.

The cemetery planned to hold goat classes in a pen in a grassy area. In June, Mr. Williams sought permission from the health department.

The "no" came that month. The capital's health code, says Dr. Vito DelVento, manager of the District of Columbia Department of Health's animal-services program, bans animals beyond common household pets from within district limits.


. . .


Then there's Washington's "no touch" policy barring direct contact between humans and animals beyond household pets.

"Baby goats are probably one of the most fun animal species--they are a blast," says Dr. DelVento, who has farm animals outside the District and has raised goats. "But the fact that we have baby goats jumping on people and interacting with people obviously violates our 'no touch' policy."

Mr. Williams says he will try again next year when Mrs. Bowen has a fresh herd of kids. He will seek a no-touch-policy exemption.

"We're really trying to offer a service," says Mrs. Bowen, "that is good for people's mental health and physical health."



For the full story, see:

Daniel Nasaw. "The Kids Are Not Alright: Bureaucrats Buck Goat Yoga." The Wall Street Jounal (Sat., OCT. 2, 2017): A1 & A12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date OCT. 1, 2017, and has the title "Goat Yoga, Meet the Zoning Board.")






November 5, 2017

For Innovators to Seek the Way to San Jose, City's Bureaucrats Should "Get Out of the Way"





The passages quoted below are authored by the Democratic mayor of the city of San Jose, California.



(p. A17) Recently, states and cities have been luring companies with subsidies. . . . The commonwealth of Massachusetts and city of Boston brought General Electric headquarters to Beantown with a $145 million incentive deal.


. . .


But my city won't be offering incentives to Amazon. Why? Because they are a bad deal for taxpayers. With many subsidies, the jobs a company brings to an area don't generate revenues commensurate with public expenditures. The GE deal will cost taxpayers more than $181,000 for every job created in Boston. Most experts insist that other factors--particularly the presence of a skilled workforce--play a far larger role in determining boardrooms' corporate location decisions. Moreover, some 95% of Silicon Valley's job growth comes from new small-business formation and when those homegrown companies develop into larger firms.


. . .


A healthy economic ecosystem that supports innovation and growth is what makes a community attractive to a company like Amazon.


. . .


As elected officials, we would do well to resist ribbon-cutting and take the longer view. To attract innovative employers, let's all stay in our lanes, create safe and attractive cities for talented people to live in, and clear bureaucratic red tape. In other words: Get out of the way.



For the full commentary, see:


Sam Liccardo. "Why I'm Not Bidding for Amazon's HQ; San Jose won't offer subsidies for favored corporations, which are a bad deal for city taxpayers." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Oct. 5, 2017): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 4, 2017.)






October 26, 2017

Boys Town Closes California Sites Due to Intrusive Regulations



(p. 1A) It's been a century since a young Irish priest named Father Edward Flanagan welcomed homeless boys into a run-down Victorian mansion in downtown Omaha.

But as Boys Town celebrates its centennial, the organization is lessening its focus on the kind of residential care model that made it famous.

The latest wave came in June, as Boys Town announced the shuttering of sites in New York, Texas and California, including one residential care site in Orange County.


. . .


In 2000 under the Rev. Val Peter, then its executive director, the organization had 16 sites -- though some were shelters without residential care.

The Rev. Steven Boes, current president and national executive director, insists the Flanagan mission of caring for American families and children remains, despite what he called some tough decisions to close sites.


. . .

(p. 2A) Boys Town decided to shutter its 80-acre residential site in Trabuco Canyon and two family homes in Tustin, California, after years of advocating for regulatory changes in that state. At the time of the June announcement, those homes housed 28 children.

The Trabuco Canyon site was one of 14 Boys Town residential care facilities opened in the 1980s and '90s as Peter worked to spread the model to larger metro areas around the nation.

Since then, changing state regulations have made it more difficult to implement the Boys Town model in many of those areas, said Bob Pick, executive vice president of youth care.

"We opened those sites 20 or 30 years ago, and it was an exciting time," Pick said. "But times change, contracts change and we have to serve kids with the highest quality. We just couldn't do that in some locations."

When the Trabuco Canyon facility opened, youths stayed for up to two years, Pick said, adding that Boys Town's own research shows that the minimum stay should be about six months and a yearlong stay is ideal.

Because of contractual rules including mandated length of stays in California, "we couldn't get kids to stay longer than two or three months," Pick said. "That's just not quality care."


. . .


The changes at Boys Town haven't come without criticism.

The Rev. Peter worries that the closing of Boys Town sites and focus on research runs afoul of Flanagan's mission. "I gave my whole life to this -- to Flanagan's dream," Peter, 83, said. "This is called God's dream. Times change, but God's dream doesn't."



For the full story, see:

Klecker, Mara. "Renowned care model no longer main focus; Overall trend is toward in-home family consulting, fewer residential sites." Omaha World-Herald (Sun., Aug. 27, 2017): 1A-2A.

(Note: ellipses added..)






October 22, 2017

California Elite Regulates to Reduce Affordable Housing



(p. A11) In Silicon Valley the median home costs $1.2 million, about 2.5 times as much as in Seattle. Houses are less expensive inland--about $350,000 in Riverside and Sacramento--but living there often means a long commute. The weather also isn't much better than in Phoenix or Dallas, so why not move to another state? A net 800,000 people did just that between 2005 and 2015, and many of them earned less than $30,000.


. . .


The state Legislative Analyst Office notes that in California's coastal metros more than two-thirds of cities and counties have policies explicitly aimed at restricting housing growth, such as limits on density. When a developer wants to break ground, local governments impose multilayered reviews that can mean getting approval from the municipal building department, health department, fire department and planning commission as well as elected officials.

Neighbors can delay or block projects using the state's 1970 Environmental Quality Act. It isn't coincidental that California's housing prices soared during the 1970s. Getting a building permit in San Francisco takes about three times as long as in the typical American metro.

There are more-direct costs, too: Local governments tack on hefty development fees, which run about three to four times as high in California as in the rest of the country. Politicians often attach conditions to projects requiring developers to pay workers "prevailing wages," determined by local unions. This is one reason the cost of construction labor in California is about 20% higher than nationwide. Stringent building codes and energy-efficiency standards can add tens of thousands to the price of a house--even though low-flow appliances often cause people to use more water.

All told, it costs between $50,000 and $75,000 more to build a home in California than in the rest of the country. Building a low-income housing unit costs $332,000--about $80,000 more than the median home in Dallas or Phoenix.


. . .


Zoning is generally the biggest obstacle to development in coastal areas.


. . .

California's housing policies are intrinsically regressive. Limiting the supply drives up home values in well-to-do coastal communities, while pricing everyone else out of the market.



For the full commentary, see:

Allysia Finley. "Why Housing Is Unaffordable in California; What could really help is deregulation, but residents aren't likely to get it from Democratic lawmakers." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Sept. 30, 2017): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 29, 2017.)






September 26, 2017

Silicon Valley Techies Make Pilgrimage to Hewlett-Packard Garage



(p. 6) The Birthplace of Silicon Valley

On a quiet Palo Alto street lined with multimillion-dollar Victorian and craftsman homes, Spanish villas, lemon trees and sidewalks perfect for jogging or strolling with babies in carriages, a National Register of Historic Places sign in one front yard recognizes the home's famous roots. In the detached garage of the house, the Silicon Valley was seeded. The garage is where two Stanford students, William R. Hewlett and David Packard, began developing their first product, an audio oscillator, in 1938. Their partnership resulted in the establishment in 1939 of the Hewlett-Packard Company, a manufacturer of software and computer services.

What Berry Gordy Jr.'s restored upper flat in Detroit is for Motown music buffs, the Hewlett-Packard garage has become for techies, who make the pilgrimage to 367 Addison Ave. to snap photographs of the property.



For the full story, see:

KAREN CROUSE. "A Few Sights to Take in on a Drive to the Game." The New York Times, SportsSunday Section (Sun., FEB. 6, 2016): 6.

(Note: bold subtitle in original.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date FEB. 6, 2016, and has the title "On the Road to Super Bowl 50.")






August 30, 2017

Higher-Paid Finance Jobs Moving from NYC and San Francisco to Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Dallas



FinanceJobsMigrateFromNYCandSF2017-08-15.pngSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.




(p. B1) Traditional finance hubs have yet to recover all the jobs lost during the recession, but the industry is booming in places like Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Dallas. The migration has accelerated as investment firms face declining profitability and soaring real estate costs.


. . .


"San Francisco is a wonderful place, but unfortunately it's an expensive place from a real estate standpoint," said Brian McDonald, a senior vice president for Schwab. "So we had to identify other places where we could make things work."

While the finance industry has been relocating entry-level jobs since the late 1980s, today's moves are claiming higher-paid jobs in human resources, compliance and asset management, chipping away at New York City's middle class, said (p. B2) Kathryn Wylde, president and chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit that represents the city's business leadership.

"This industry isn't just a bunch of rich Wall Street guys," Ms. Wylde said. "It's a big source of employment that's disappearing from New York."



For the full story, see:

Asjylyn Loder. "Wall Street's New Frontier." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., JULY 27, 2017): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JULY 26, 2017, and has the title "Passive Migration: Denver Wins Big as Financial Firms Relocate to Cut Costs.")






July 6, 2017

Rain and Snow End California Drought



(p. A18) After six years of a prolonged drought in California, it is all but over. On Friday [April 7, 2017], Gov. Jerry Brown ended the drought emergency for the vast majority of the state. The drought had reduced Folsom Lake, a major reservoir in Northern California, to less than a third of its capacity in 2015, and all but wiped out the Sierra Nevada snowpack.


. . .


But the state's hydrologic picture brightened significantly beginning in October 2016, when a series of massive storms drenched Northern California. The rain and snow continued through the winter, swelling major reservoirs to the point that officials were forced to make releases.

Meanwhile, the state's snowpack made an impressive recovery. As of Friday, the water content in the state's snowpack was about 160 percent of what is considered normal for this time of year. By comparison, the snowpack was reported as about 5 percent of average the day Mr. Brown stood on the barren field and ordered mandatory water conservation.



For the full story, see:

MATT STEVENS. "Drenched by Winter Rain, California Is Told 'Drought's Over'." The New York Times (Sat., APRIL 8, 2017): A18.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date APRIL 7, 2017, and has the title "California, Drenched by Winter Rain, Is Told 'Drought's Over'.")






May 10, 2017

Restaurants Add Labor Surcharges to Help Pay Minimum Wage Costs



(p. B1) In lieu of steep menu price increases, many independent and regional chain restaurants in states including Arizona, California, Colorado and New York are adding surcharges of 3% to 4% to help offset rising labor costs. Industry analysts expect the practice to become widespread as more cities and states increase minimum wages.

"It's the emerging new norm," said Sharokina Shams, spokeswoman for the California Restaurant Association. She said California restaurants are adding surcharges as the state lifts the minimum wage every year until it reaches $15 an hour by 2023. It is currently at $10.50 an hour for employers with 26 or more workers.


. . .


While adding a surcharge risks turning diners away, some restaurateurs say they want customers to understand the consequences of higher wages on a business with profit margins of generally between 2% and 6%.


. . .


(p. B2) Sami Ladeki added surcharges to the menu at six Sammy's Woodfired Pizza & Grill restaurants in San Diego and eight more across California. He said it was a mistake to call the charge a state mandate, and has changed the wording. But he remains critical of rising minimum wages.

"This is not sustainable," said Mr. Ladeki, who says he makes a profit of around 1% charging $12 to $14 a pizza. "People are not going to pay $15 or $20 for a pizza."


. . .


David Cohn, who owns 15 restaurants in San Diego, including BO-beau, said his 3% surcharge wasn't a stunt.

"We want people to understand there is a cost," Mr. Cohn said. "How do we stay in business with margins shrinking and competition increasing?"



For the full story, see:

JULIE JARGON. "New on Your Dinner Tab: A Labor Surcharge." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., March 10, 2017): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date March 9, 2017.)






January 26, 2017

Uber Fights Regulations by Asking Forgiveness, Not Permission



(p. B3) For seven years, Uber's stance on complying with regulations has been consistent: Ask forgiveness, not permission.

On Friday [December 16, 2016], the ride-hailing company stuck to that position. It said it had no intention of ending a new test of its self-driving vehicles in San Francisco, even though California regulators had said the service was illegal because Uber had not obtained the necessary permits. Uber said its self-driving cars were still on the road and picking up passengers.

The dispute is rooted in Uber's refusal to seek a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which would allow it to test autonomous vehicles under certain conditions. Companies like Google, Tesla Motors and Mercedes-Benz have all gotten such permits.

Uber officials contend that under the letter of California law, the company does not need a permit because the motor vehicles department defines autonomous vehicles as those that drive "without the active physical control or monitoring of a natural person." Uber said its modified, self-driving Volvo XC90s require human oversight, and therefore do not fit California's definition of an autonomous vehicle.


. . .


The episode serves the latest volley in Uber's war with local and state regulators -- not only in the United States, but in many of the more than 70 countries in which the company operates. Uber has previously grappled with the authorities in California over safety concerns. And Otto, the self-driving trucking start-up founded by Mr. Levandowski and acquired by Uber in August, has flouted state laws in Nevada in the past.



For the full story, see:

MIKE ISAAC. "Uber Defies California Officials Over Self-Driving Cars." The New York Times (Sat., December 17, 2016): B3.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 16, 2016, and has the title "Uber Defies California Regulators With Self-Driving Car Service.")






December 2, 2016

Poor Are Exiting High-Housing-Cost Cities



GroupsExitingHighHousingCostCitiesGraph2106-11-18.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A3) Americans are leaving the costliest metro areas for more affordable parts of the country at a faster rate than they are being replaced, according to an analysis of census data, reflecting the impact of housing costs on domestic migration patterns.

Those mostly likely to move from expensive to inexpensive metro areas were at the lower end of the income scale, under the age of 40 and without a bachelor's degree, the analysis by home-tracker Trulia found.


. . .


Another study this year from California policy group Next 10 and Beacon Economics found that New York state and California had the largest net losses of domestic migrants between 2007 and 2014, and that lower- and middle-income people were more likely to leave.



For the full story, see:

CHRIS KIRKHAM. "Costly Cities See Exodus." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Nov. 3, 2016): A3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 1, 2016, and has the title "More Americans Leave Expensive Metro Areas for Affordable Ones.")






October 31, 2016

"The Ideological Insistence on Renewables and an Irrational Fear of Nuclear Power"



(p. A25) Berkeley, Calif. -- CALIFORNIA has a reputation as a leader in battling climate change, and so when Pacific Gas & Electric and environmental groups announced a plan last week to close the state's last nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon, and replace much of the electricity it generates with power from renewable resources, the deal was widely applauded.

It shouldn't have been. If the proposal is approved by the state's Public Utilities Commission, California's carbon dioxide emissions will either increase or decline far less than if Diablo Canyon's two reactors, which generated about 9 percent of the state's electricity last year, remained in operation. If this deal goes through, California will become a model of how not to deal with climate change.


. . .


Nearly every time a nuclear plant has been closed, its energy production has been replaced almost entirely with fossil fuels, including in California. In 2012, when the San Onofre nuclear plant closed, natural gas became the main replacement power source, creating emissions of carbon dioxide equivalent to putting two million cars on the road.


. . .


Even if by some miracle California did manage to replace 100 percent of Diablo Canyon's output with renewables, why would a state ostensibly concerned with climate change turn away from its largest single source of clean energy? The answer, as is perhaps obvious, is the ideological insistence on renewables and an irrational fear of nuclear power.

The only countries that have successfully moved from fossil fuels to low-carbon power have done so with the help of nuclear energy. And the backlash against antinuclear policies is growing. Increasingly, scientists and conservationists in the United States are speaking out in defense of nuclear power.

If California indeed closes Diablo Canyon, emissions will either rise or fail to fall as quickly as they could, and the antinuclear agenda will be exposed as anathema to climate protection.



For the full commentary, see:

MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER. "How Not to Deal With Climate Change." The New York Times (Thurs., June 30, 2016): A25.

(Note: ellipses added.)






September 20, 2016

Airline Startups Stall in Bureaucratic Regulatory Headwinds



(p. B4) Mr. Vallas owns California Pacific Airlines, known as CP Air, his latest venture in a peripatetic business career that has included stints in areas as varied as land development and other aviation-related ventures.

CP Air has sat on a metaphorical runway for years -- engines idling, ready for takeoff -- while awaiting certification by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Mr. Vallas's patience is wearing thin. After all, he is 95, and he regards the airline as a legacy, an exclamation point to a colorful life.


. . .


. . . then there was that matter with the F.A.A. The agency has repeatedly denied applications. A letter from 2013, one of several from the agency, advised him that the application's contents were "incomplete, inaccurate and do not appear to have been reviewed for quality."


. . .


The government shutdown in 2013 and the F.A.A.'s staff reduction did not help matters, the agency acknowledges.


. . .


The process of greenlighting a new airline has become more complicated since Mr. Vallas sold a previous venture, a charter service called Air Resorts, in 1997.

He acknowledges the vast increase in paperwork since that era but contends that the conditions for acceptance have been met.

Mr. Vallas's airline is not the only one that has encountered bureaucratic headwinds. Other proposed airlines are in limbo for various reasons, including Baltia Airlines, created in 1989 to fly between New York City and Russia, which still lacks the authorities' blessing.



For the full story, see:

MIKE TIERNEY. "ITINERARIES; A Start-Up Airline Idles on a California Runway." The New York Times (Tues., APRIL 26, 2016): B4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date APRIL 25, 2016, and has the title "ITINERARIES; Start-Up Airline Idles on a California Runway, Stymied by Bureaucracy.")






March 21, 2016

Ugly, Invasive, Depressing Federal LEDs Disrupt Sleep and Increase Risk of Breast Cancer



(p. B1) In my repellently contented middle age, I don't seek blue light. Like most sane people, I spurn restaurants whose lighting glares. I recoil from mirrors under fluorescent tubes. I switch on an overhead only to track down a water bug while wielding a flip-flop. Yet each evening from March onward, in the Brooklyn neighborhood where I live part of the year, it seems as if the overhead is always on.

Along with other parts of South Brooklyn, Windsor Terrace is an early recipient of the Department of Transportation's new light-emitting diode streetlights. New Yorkers who have not yet been introduced to these lights: We are living in your future.

Our new street "lamps" -- too cozy a word for the icy arrays now screaming through our windows -- are meant to be installed across all five boroughs by 2017. Indeed, any resident of an American municipality that has money problems (and what city doesn't?) should take heed.

In interviews with the media, my fellow experimental subjects have compared the nighttime environment under the new streetlights to a film set, a prison yard, "a strip mall in outer space" and "the mother ship coming in for a landing" in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Although going half-blind at 58, I can read by the beam that the new lamp blasts into our front room without tapping our own Con Ed service. Once the LEDs went in, our next-door neighbor began walking her dog at night in sunglasses.

Medical research has firmly established that blue-spectrum LED light can disrupt sleep patterns. This is the same illumination that radiates in far smaller doses from smartphone and computer screens, to which we're advised to avoid exposure for at least an hour before bed, because it can suppress the production of melatonin. . . .

While the same light has also been associated with increased risk of breast cancer and mood disorders, in all honesty my biggest beef with LEDs has nothing to do with health issues. These lights are ugly. They're invasive. They're depressing. New York deserves better.


. . .


Even fiscally and environmentally conscientious California has compromised on this point. Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco have all opted for yellow-rich LEDs. These cities have willingly made the modest 10-15 percent sacrifice in efficiency for an ambience that more closely embodies what Germans call Gemütlichkeit and Danes call hygge: an atmosphere of hospitality, homeyness, intimacy and well-being.


. . .


As currently conceived, the D.O.T.'s streetlight plan amounts to mass civic vandalism. If my focus on aesthetics makes this issue sound trivial, the sensory experience of daily life is not a frivolous matter. Even in junior high school, I understood that lighting isn't only about what you see, but how you feel.



For the full commentary, see:

LIONEL SHRIVER. "Ruining That Moody Urban Glow." The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., OCT. 18, 2015): 5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date OCT. 17, 2015.)






March 20, 2016

Working for Uber Allows Flexibility for Aspiring Actors



(p. 8) Not long ago, being a waiter at the Ivy or a salesman at Fred Segal was considered the reliable way to earn a living until one got a big break in a Wes Anderson film and got picked up by a major Hollywood agency like CAA or WME.

But Krystal Harris, 27, an actress who appeared in the recent Kevin Hart film "About Last Night," quickly realized those sorts of jobs were overrated. So now she works primarily for Lyft.

"I was a lead hostess at three different restaurants," Ms. Harris said. "It really didn't allow for much flexibility at all. I ended up getting fired for going to an audition. Even when I got my shifts covered, they gave me a hard time."

In 2013, she turned her Ford Escape into a roving cash register. She had total control over her hours, never needing to clear her schedule with anyone for a last-minute audition. There weren't even rules against working for both Uber and Lyft.

When acting gigs were hard to come by, she drove as many as 40 hours a week, earning what she estimated was about $20 an hour after Uber and Lyft took their commissions (generally around 20 percent). If the casting gods shined on her, she simply shut off the apps.

"When I'm really on a roll, I don't have to work," she said. "As long as my insurance and registration are up to date, I can go back."

Mr. Totten had a similar experience. Before driving for Uber, he worked at a half-dozen restaurants. All those jobs ended when he had to take off for auditions, or was caught trying to learn lines on the job. Once, he refused to shave because a casting director was looking for someone with stubble.

"My look is my scruff," said Mr. Totten, who is blond and blue-eyed, with a James Dean meets 90210 appeal. "As soon as I started driving for Uber, things got better."


. . .


(p. 9) Recently, Mr. Totten considered getting a new side job. "I'm probably going to do Postmates," he said, referring to the app-based service that delivers artisanal food in under 60 minutes and guarantees its drivers a minimum of $25 an hour. "You can't live on this anymore."



For the full story, see:

JACOB BERNSTEIN. "Drivers With Head Shots." The New York Times, SundayStyles Section (Sun., JAN. 24, 2016): 1 & 8-9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date JAN. 23, 2016, and has the title "The New Side Job for Actors and Artists in Los Angeles: Driving.")






September 18, 2015

Disneyland "Immersed the Viewer in the Story Itself"



(p. A11) On July 17, 1955, about 28,000 people (roughly half of whom had been sold counterfeit tickets) walked, for the first time, through the gates of Disneyland and into history. To say it didn't go smoothly would be an understatement: The temperature was 101 degrees (hot, even for Southern California) and difficulties with both the plumbing system and the labor unions made it impossible for anyone to get a drink. Only a handful of the rides and attractions were open at all, and most of those were continually breaking down and closing. Even the animals--the horses and mules in the Wild West attractions--refused to cooperate. That walk may have been historic, but it was made even more difficult by all the asphalt--poured only a few hours earlier--that kept sticking to everyone's shoes.

. . .


With Disneyland, Walt Disney took the concept of narrative to the extreme: Rather than merely showing the viewer a story, even with the heightened naturalism of sound, color and a combination of cartoon characters and real actors, the theme park actually immersed the viewer in the story itself.


. . .


Walt Disney--who famously said, "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world"--would be pleased that in the half century since his death, his creation has been constantly tinkered with. Although very little remains of the park that opened in 1955, he would still recognize it, and love it.



For the full commentary, see:

WILL FRIEDWALD. "CULTURAL COMMENTARY; Finding Disneyland; Celebrating 60 Years of Disneyland, a Park that Was ahead of Its Time." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., July 15, 2015): D5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 14, 2015, and has the title "CULTURAL COMMENTARY; Celebrating 60 Years of Disneyland; In honor of Disneyland's 60th birthday, a look back at a park that was ahead of its time.")







April 17, 2014

Re-Use of Plastic Bags Increases E. Coli Infections



(p. A13) Though reducing plastic-bag use might be good for the environment, encouraging the re-use of plastic bags for food-toting may not be so healthy for humans. After San Francisco introduced its ban on non-compostable plastic bags in large grocery stores in 2007, researchers discovered a curious spike in E. coli infections, which can be fatal, and a 46% increase in deaths from food-borne illnesses, according to a study published in November 2012 by the University of Pennsylvania and George Mason University. "We show that the health costs associated with the San Francisco ban swamp any budgetary savings from reduced litter," the study's authors observed.

Affirming this yuck factor, a 2011 study from the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University found bacteria in 99% of reusable polypropylene bags tested; 8% of them were carrying E. coli. The study, though it mainly focused on plastic bags, also looked at two cotton reusable bags--and both contained bacteria.

Bag-ban boosters counter that consumers just need to wash their bags and use separate bags for fish and meat. If only my washing machine had a "reusable bag vinegar rinse cycle." A paltry 3% of shoppers surveyed in that same 2011 study said they washed their reusable bags. Has anybody calculated the environmental impact of drought-ravaged Californians laundering grocery bags?



For the full commentary, see:

JUDY GRUEN. "Becoming a Bagless Lady in Los Angeles." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., March 8, 2014): A13.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 7, 2014.)


The 2012 study mistakenly labelled above as "published" is:

Klick, Jonathan and Wright, Joshua D., Grocery Bag Bans and Foodborne Illness (November 2, 2012). U of Penn, Inst for Law & Econ Research Paper No. 13-2. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2196481 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2196481


The 2011 article mentioned above, is:

Williams, David L., Charles P. Gerba, Sherri Maxwell, and Ryan G. Sinclair. "Assessment of the Potential for Cross-Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags." Food Protection Trends 31, no. 8 (Aug. 2011): 508-13.






December 23, 2013

Over-Regulated Tech Entrepreneurs Seek Their Own Country



The embed above is provided by YouTube where the video clip is posted under the title "Balaji Srinivasan at Startup School 2013."




(p. B4) At a startup conference in the San Francisco Bay area last month, a brash and brilliant young entrepreneur named Balaji Srinivasan took the stage to lay out a case for Silicon Valley's independence.

According to Mr. Srinivasan, who co-founded a successful genetics startup and is now a popular lecturer at Stanford University, the tech industry is under siege from Wall Street, Washington and Hollywood, which he says he believes are harboring resentment toward Silicon Valley's efforts to usurp their cultural and economic power.

On its surface, Mr. Srinivasan's talk,—called "Silicon Valley's Ultimate Exit,"—sounded like a battle cry of the libertarian, anti-regulatory sensibility long espoused by some of the tech industry's leading thinkers. After arguing that the rest of the country wants to put a stop to the Valley's rise, Mr. Srinivasan floated a plan for techies to build an "opt-in society, outside the U.S., run by technology."

His idea seemed a more expansive version of Google Chief Executive Larry Page's call for setting aside "a piece of the world" to try out controversial new technologies, and investor Peter Thiel's "Seastead" movement, which aims to launch tech-utopian island nations.



For the full commentary, see:

FARHAD MANJOO. "HIGH DEFINITION; The Valley's Ugly Complex." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Nov. 4, 2013): B4.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Nov. 3, 2013, and has the title "HIGH DEFINITION; Silicon Valley Has an Arrogance Problem.")






October 15, 2013

Prius Drivers Endanger Pedestrians and Cut in Front of Other Drivers



(p. B2) Jokes about BMW drivers being, on average, somewhat less than courteous are fairly common. They often run along the lines of, "Despite its good brakes, a BMW will usually stop with a jerk." Sometimes the language is more colorful.


. . .


Paul K. Piff, a researcher at the Institute of Personality and Social Research at the University of California, Berkeley, has conducted a study linking bad driving habits with wealth.


. . .


In California, where the study was conducted, state law requires motorists to stop at crosswalks when pedestrians are present, allowing them to cross the road. Mr. Piff said his team selected a specific crosswalk to observe, then had a pedestrian appear on the edge of the curb as a car approached. As the pedestrian stepped into the road, a researcher marked down the driver's reaction to the pedestrian. This was done with 152 drivers.

The team also watched a four-way-stop intersection over a week, noting how likely drivers were to cut in front of others when it was not their turn to go. In their observation of 274 cars, the researchers found that the more expensive ones were more likely to jump their turns in the four-way rotation, Mr. Piff said.


. . .


In the San Francisco Bay Area, where the hybrid gas-and-electric-powered Toyota Prius is considered a status symbol among the environmentally conscious, the researchers classified it as a premium model.

"In our higher-status vehicle category, Prius drivers had a higher tendency to commit infractions than most," Mr. Piff said.



For the full story, see:

BENJAMIN PRESTON. "The Rich Drive Differently, a Study Suggests." The New York Times (Tues., August 13, 2013): B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date August 12, 2013.)


The study discussed above is:

Piff, Paul K., Daniel M. Stancato, Stéphane Côté, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, and Dacher Keltner. "Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 109, no. 11 (March 13, 2012): 4086-91.






July 9, 2012

Bicyclists Create Negative Externalities for Pedestrians



BicyclistsSanFrancisco2012-06-22.jpg "Bicyclists weave through pedestrians and motor traffic on Friday in San Francisco, where a fatal bike-pedestrian collision has sparked debate." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A3) SAN FRANCISCO--City prosecutors said they would file felony vehicular-manslaughter charges against a bicyclist who allegedly hit and killed a pedestrian, in a case that has become a flash point for debate over bicyclists' rights in the city.

The manslaughter charges--unusually stiff for a bicycle accident--stem from a March 29 incident, when 36-year-old bicyclist Chris Bucchere allegedly ran a red traffic light and plowed into 71-year-old Sutchi Hui in a crosswalk. Mr. Hui died April 2 of injuries related to the collision.


. . .


The bicycle backlash has come to a head after a series of pedestrian deaths in the San Francisco Bay area. A 67-year-old woman died last August after a bicyclist allegedly hit her in a crosswalk after running a red light; the cyclist was convicted of a misdemeanor. Earlier this month, a cyclist allegedly struck and killed a 92-year-old woman in the suburb of El Cerrito while crossing a street; that case is under investigation.



For the full story, see:

JIM CARLTON. "U.S. NEWS; Reckless Riders Spur Backlash; Fatal Collision in San Francisco Leads to Manslaughter Charges Against Cyclist." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., June 16, 2012): A3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)






June 17, 2012

Same Government that Allows Violence, Prioritizes Taxing Soda



BoozeCourtlandRichmondCityCouncil2012-06-11.jpg "One vocal opponent of the tax is Courtland Boozé, a City Council member who calls it a hardship on poor people." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. 14) Even here at a sweaty Zumba class sponsored by a nonprofit group called Weigh of Life, the city's proposal for a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which is to appear on the November ballot, meets up against the hard realities of residents' lives.

"What don't I have?" asked Rita Cerda, a longtime soda devotee, ticking off her ailments, including diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma. She is also overweight.

"I have problems drinking water," she said. "I don't like water."

The proposed tax, a license fee on businesses selling sweetened drinks, would require owners of bodegas, theaters, convenience stores and other outlets to tally ounces sold and, presumably, pass the cost on to customers.


. . .


Courtland Boozé is a City Council member and a vocal opponent of the soda tax. "We are primarily an economically suppressed community," he said. "It will be a huge hardship.

"I eat sweet potato pie and candied yams," continued Mr. Boozé, who is from Louisiana. "And what about cupcakes? Are they going to tax those?"

The city's Chamber of Commerce is also opposed to the tax. A group fighting the tax that includes the beverage industry has begun dropping off "Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes" placards at La Flore de Jalisco Market, a small, cheerful grocery store where soda bottles in dozens of hues match the colorful piñatas hanging from the ceiling.


. . .


Charles Finnie, known as Chuck, a vice president of BMWL, a San Francisco lobbying firm, called the tax "an administrative nightmare for local businesses" that would also put them at a competitive disadvantage, with customers opting for cheaper soda in nearby cities.


. . .


At the RYSE Youth Center, founded 12 years ago after the killing of four high school students, the soda issue seemed both close to the heart and far away.

Kayla Miller, an 18-year-old college freshman, said that if complexion problems from too much sugar would not deter her friends from drinking sodas, neither would a tax.

Shivneel Sen, 14, does not favor the tax but knows how the money should be spent if it passes.

"The police came heck of late," he said, recalling the recent death of a best friend. "We need more of them."

Kimberly Aceves, the center's executive director, says that too often, the burden for making healthy choices falls unfairly on young people. Society may say "go exercise," she said, "but if the community isn't safe, how many kids are going to go out running?"

"Soda is bad for you," Ms. Aceves said. "So is violence."



For the full story, see:

PATRICIA LEIGH BROWN. "RICHMOND JOURNAL; Plan to Tax Soda Gets a Mixed Reception." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., June 3, 2012): 14.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date June 2, 2012.)






June 1, 2012

Lucasfilm Will Build Somewhere "That Sees Us as a Creative Asset, Not as an Evil Empire"



LucasValleyMarinCounty2012-05-30.jpg "Lucas Valley in Marin County, Calif., where residents' objections led George Lucas to abandon a bid to expand operations at a new site near Skywalker Ranch." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. A13) SAN RAFAEL, Calif. -- In 1978, a year after "Star Wars" was released, George Lucas began building his movie production company far from Hollywood, in the quiet hills and valley of Marin County here just north of San Francisco. Starting with Skywalker Ranch, the various pieces of Lucasfilm came together over the decades behind the large trees on his 6,100-acre property, invisible from the single two-lane road that snakes through the area.

And even as his fame grew, Mr. Lucas earned his neighbors' respect through his discretion. Marin, one of America's richest counties, liked it that way.

But after spending years and millions of dollars, Mr. Lucas abruptly canceled plans recently for the third, and most likely last, major expansion, citing community opposition. An emotional statement posted online said Lucasfilm would build instead in a place "that sees us as a creative asset, not as an evil empire."

If the announcement took Marin by surprise, it was nothing compared with what came next. Mr. Lucas said he would sell the land to a developer to bring "low income housing" here.


. . .


Whatever Mr. Lucas's intentions, his announcement has unsettled a county whose famously liberal politics often sits uncomfortably with the issue of low-cost housing and where battles have been fought over such construction before. His proposal has pitted neighbor against neighbor, who, after failed peacemaking efforts over local artisanal cheese and wine, traded accusations in the local newspaper.

The staunchest opponents of Lucasfilm's expansion are now being accused of driving away the filmmaker and opening the door to a low-income housing development. That has created an atmosphere that one opponent, who asked not to be identified, saying she feared for her safety, described as "sheer terror" and likened to "Syria."

Carl Fricke, a board member of the Lucas Valley Estates Homeowners Association, which represents houses nearest to the Lucas property, said: "We got letters saying, 'You guys are going to get what you deserve. You're going to bring drug dealers, all this crime and lowlife in here.' "



For the full story, see:

NORIMITSU ONISHI. "A Pyrrhic Victory for Foes of a New Lucasfilm Project; In Lieu of digital Studio, Plan for Low-Income Homes." The New York Times (Tues., May 22, 2012): A13 & A19.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story is dated May 21, 2012 and has the title "Lucas and Rich Neighbors Agree to Disagree: Part II.")



LucasGeorge2012-05-30.jpg "Mr. Lucas said Marin needs affordable housing. A resident called his plan "class warfare."" Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.






May 10, 2012

Four Million Former Californians Voted with Their Feet



KotkinJoel2012-04-30.jpg










Joel Kotkin. Source of image: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.






(p. A13) 'California is God's best moment," says Joel Kotkin. "It's the best place in the world to live." Or at least it used to be.


. . .


Nearly four million more people have left the Golden State in the last two decades than have come from other states. This is a sharp reversal from the 1980s, when 100,000 more Americans were settling in California each year than were leaving. According to Mr. Kotkin, most of those leaving are between the ages of 5 and 14 or 34 to 45. In other words, young families.


. . .


"Basically, if you don't own a piece of Facebook or Google and you haven't robbed a bank and don't have rich parents, then your chances of being able to buy a house or raise a family in the Bay Area or in most of coastal California is pretty weak," says Mr. Kotkin.


. . .


And things will only get worse in the coming years as Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and his green cadre implement their "smart growth" plans to cram the proletariat into high-density housing. "What I find reprehensible beyond belief is that the people pushing [high-density housing] themselves live in single-family homes and often drive very fancy cars, but want everyone else to live like my grandmother did in Brownsville in Brooklyn in the 1920s," Mr. Kotkin declares.

"The new regime"--his name for progressive apparatchiks who run California's government--"wants to destroy the essential reason why people move to California in order to protect their own lifestyles."

Housing is merely one front of what he calls the "progressive war on the middle class." Another is the cap-and-trade law AB32, which will raise the cost of energy and drive out manufacturing jobs without making even a dent in global carbon emissions. Then there are the renewable portfolio standards, which mandate that a third of the state's energy come from renewable sources like wind and the sun by 2020. California's electricity prices are already 50% higher than the national average.

Oh, and don't forget the $100 billion bullet train. Mr. Kotkin calls the runaway-cost train "classic California." "Where [Brown] with the state going bankrupt is even thinking about an expenditure like this is beyond comprehension. When the schools are falling apart, when the roads are falling apart, the bridges are unsafe, the state economy is in free fall. We're still doing much worse than the rest of the country, we've got this growing permanent welfare class, and high-speed rail is going to solve this?"



For the full interview, see:

ALLYSIA FINLEY, interviewer. "THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW with Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus; A leading U.S. demographer and 'Truman Democrat' talks about what is driving the middle class out of the Golden State." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., April 21, 2012): A13.

(Note: ellipses added; bracketed words in original.)

(Note: the online version of the interview is dated April 20, 2012.)






May 3, 2012

Steve Jobs Channels Ellis Wyatt



(p. 260) In 2007 Forbes magazine named Steve Jobs the highest-paid exec-(p. 261)utive of any of America's five hundred largest companies, based on gains in the value of stock granted to him at Apple. He was on the board of directors of the Walt Disney Co. Yet his former residence in Woodside, where he had once met with Catmull and Smith and mused about buying Lucasfilm's Computer Division, was now in a state of decay under his ownership.

He had wanted to demolish it; after a group of neighborhood residents opposed his plan to do so, he left the house open to the elements. The interior suffered damage from water and mold. Vines crept up the stucco walls and wandered inside.

The memories that haunted its hallways were those of Jobs's darkest times. He had bought the house only months before the humiliation of his firing from Apple; he lived in it through that firing and through the hard, money-hemorrhaging years of Pixar and NeXT. He left it as his fortunes were about to change, as he was sending Microsoft away from Pixar, convinced that he had something he should hold on to.

When a judge ruled against his quest for a demolition permit, Jobs appealed in 2006 and 2007 all the way to the California Supreme Court, but he lost at every stage. He received proposals from property owners offering to cart the house away in sections and restore it elsewhere; he rejected them. One way or another, it seemed, he meant for the house to be destroyed.



Source:

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

(Note: italics in original.)

(Note: The passage above is from the Epilogue and the pages given above are from the hardback edition (pp. 260-261). The identical passage also appears in the 2009 paperback edition, but on p. 265.





January 23, 2012

California Vegan Defends Freedom to Choose McDonald's



WarehamEllsworthVegan2012-01-21.jpg "Ellsworth Wareham, 97, in Loma Linda, Calif. Mr. Wareham was a heart surgeon who stopped working only two years ago. He is a vegan, but says choice is part of the "great American system."" Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. A15) . . . last week, when the City Council approved Loma Linda's first McDonald's restaurant, many residents bemoaned the decision, worrying that the officials were jeopardizing the city's reputation as a paragon of healthy lifestyles.


. . .


. . . , Dr. Rigsby [said] . . . he would support having a citywide vote on whether fast-food outlets should be banned entirely from the city. "If this is something that people are really opposed to, that's how we should deal with it."

What would happen during such a vote is anyone's guess. Ellsworth Wareham, who stopped working as a heart surgeon only two years ago, at 95, is often used as an example of someone with more energy than someone half his age. Dr. Wareham attributes his health at least partly to the fact that he has been a vegan for the last 30 or 40 years (he does not remember precisely).

Eating at home, he said, is the best way to ensure that one is eating healthy food. He is certainly not about to let the impending arrival of McDonald's raise his blood pressure.

"I don't subscribe to the menu that these dear people put out, but let's face it, the average eating place serves food that is, let us say, a little bit of a higher quality, but the end result is the same -- it's unhealthy," he said.

"They can put it right next to the church as far as I am concerned," Dr. Wareham added. "If they choose to eat that way, I'm not going to stop them. That's the great American system."



For the full story, see:

JENNIFER MEDINA. "LOMA LINDA JOURNAL; Fast-Food Outlet Stirs Concerns in a Mecca of Healthy Living." The New York Times (Mon., December 19, 2011): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated December 18, 2011.)






October 18, 2011

"It's Our Right to Choose What We Want to Put in Our Bodies"



FoodSovereigntySign2011-08-06.jpg "Protesters outside the Los Angeles Courthouse on Thursday denounced the police's moves against Rawesome, which offers raw milk products." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


LOS ANGELES -- Raw food enthusiasts fit right in here, in the earthy, health-conscious beach communities of Venice and Santa Monica, along with the farmers' markets, health food stores and vegan restaurants.

But this week, the police cleared the shelves of Rawesome, an establishment in Venice Beach, loading $70,000 of raw, organic produce and dairy products on the back of a flatbed truck.

And then, on Thursday, James Stewart, the proprietor, was arraigned on charges of illegally making, improperly labeling and illegally selling raw milk products, as well as other charges related to Rawesome's operations. Two farmers who work with Rawesome were also named in the district attorney's complaint.


. . .


The raid on Rawesome has riled people here who say that unpasteurized milk is safer and healthier. About 150 raw food advocates gathered at the Los Angeles County Courthouse on Thursday to oppose the crackdown.

"It's our right to choose what we want to put in our bodies," Ms. Buttery said. "When members filled out an application, they were saying they wanted natural bacteria in their systems. We don't want labeling. We don't want animals full of antibiotics."



For the full story, see:

IAN LOVETT. "Raw Food Co-op Is Raided in California." The New York Times (Fri., August 5, 2011): A11.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story is dated August 4, 2011.)





October 8, 2010

Budgetless California Legislature Votes to Create "Motorcycle Awareness Month"



(p. A1) SACRAMENTO, Calif.--On the brink of insolvency, California may have to pay its bills with IOUs soon. A budget was due three months ago, and the legislature hasn't passed one.

The lawmakers can, however, point to a list of other achievements this year. Awaiting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature, for example, is a bill that would bar the state from filming cows in New Zealand. It's the fruit of five committee votes and eight legislative analyses.

California lawmakers also voted to form a lobster commission. They created "Motorcycle Awareness Month," not to mention a "Cuss Free Week."



For the full story, see:

STU WOO. "There's No Budget, but California Is All Over the Foreign-Cow Issue; As Deficit Looms, Lawmakers Promulgate 'Cuss Free Week,' Defend the State Rock." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., SEPTEMBER 28, 2010): A1 & A18.





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