Thursday, August 24, 2017

Notes from the 2017 Glacier Road Trip, Day Four

-Flathead Lake is massive and beautiful and a fantastic prelude to Glacier National Park.  We got an early start from Polson but didn’t feel we needed to rush.

-Visits to Glacier National Park increased 22% for the month of June year to date, and a ranger told me today that no one in the park was ready for it.

-Avalanche Lake was beautiful (as always) but packed full of people.  We arrived at the parking area around 9 a.m. and had to park a half mile down the road.

-The worst people in the world are: 1) People that smoke in parks.  2) People that play music on bluetooth speakers while walking in parks.  3) Trail runners on dusty trails in bear country.

-People also have a problem dressing for National Parks.  People were hiking the two miles up the trail to Avalanche Lake in full maxi-dresses and dress sandals, while complaining that it’s dirty. 

-Someone died near at Haystack Creek on the Going-to-the-Sun Road when he got on the rocks in the creek, slipped in his flip-flops, and fell into the culvert and eventually down a 100 foot cliff to his death.  I’m so sorry for the loss for his family but I don’t know how many times parks need to warn people that the outdoors is dangerous.

-That message didn’t get to the woman in her underwear doing yoga on the stone wall on the cliff of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

-The bear grass is nuts this year. 

-The crowds are nuts this year.

-We are still happy with our cabin at Johnson’s of St. Mary.

-6 miles hiked today.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Notes from the 2017 Glacier Road Trip, Day Three

-The Home 2 Suites in Richland, Washington is outstanding for the price.

-The motel also has the slowest elevators in Washington State so take the stairs.

-Building in Richland seems to be going strong which shocks me because there really isn’t anything but agriculture in the Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco, Richland) area. 

-For road trip reference; the drive between The Dalles, Oregon and the outskirts of Spokane, Washington is flat out terrible.  Scrubland and agro-desert. 

-I could see me and my wife retiring to a location like Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.  It’s beautiful, economically vibrant, and the weather is not harsh. 

-My wife gets the first bear sighting in a field off I-90 east of Coeur d’Alene.

-We expected the temperatures to start to drop once we hit the mountains of Montana but that has not been the case.  It’s been mid to upper 90’s all the way from Spokane to Polson, Montana. 

-We normally go I-90 to St. Regis then head up and out near the northwest corner of Flathead Lake.  This time we hit St. Regis and continued east to Polson because we are really taking our time getting up to Glacier National Park.

-The Safeway in Polson has the same price for gas for credit and cash.  It also has a poor wine selection. 

-We are staying at the Red Lion Inn in Polson which is on a bluff overlooking Flathead Lake.  This is great way to begin our vacation in Montana.

-While on the terrace we overheard a Native American couple talking to a college professor about how they were Republicans that voted for Trump but think he’s now a disgusting person.  They also mentioned how much they hated Democrats and most of Barrack Obama’s policies. 

How do I address Charlottesville when school starts?

Charlottesville 2017

I never could believe how many people that teach history had bought into the idea that radical ideologies somehow disappear.  Lest we forget that official segregation still existed in the rural South as late as the mid-1970s and that anyone with an Internet connection can see that the vile hatred has a home on the Web.  Nazism never went away, it simply laid dormant.

And now we have the White Supremacist protest in Charlottesville and the death of a young woman when a Nazi ran her over in a car.   This event is going to come up in class and it’s going to raise plenty of passions about things that have come from both sides of the political spectrum, including the lack of a serious response from the Chief Executive.  I’m watching the stunned reactions from many former students who grew up thinking Nazis and White Supremacists went the way of the Dodo because of World War 2 and the Civil Rights Movement, and the shock and anger are quite real.  I’m thinking about addressing a couple of different angles.

-Do the Nazis have the right to protest?  At this point we can talk about Supreme Court cases and the idea of the First Amendment, and when the First Amendment line is crossed.

-Is the White Supremacist movement on the rise in the United States and how does it compare with past U.S. or global movements?  At this point we can look at data over the last 10 years (it is on the rise) versus past White Supremacist movements in the U.S. (it’s not even close to past movements) and trends around the world (it’s comparable).  We can also look at economic conditions and the weakness of political institutions in allowing the rise to occur.

-Should Confederate statues in cities and towns be taken down?  The protest started as a march against potentially removing a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, allegedly.  This is a nice point to introduce federalism and national governments deal with pockets of local ideology. 

These last two issues are tougher.

-Is there a connection between the current Chief Executive and the rise in White Supremacists?  I do my best to stay above the fray of politics and be an objective observer of the process and the institutions.  At this point the only conclusion I can come up with is that Donald Trump has some sympathy for White Supremacists either for ideological or political reasons.  Neither are acceptable.  I would not be acting responsibly if I didn’t say “No modern President has been this complacent to the acts of Nazism”, and that the current president has top political advisors with clear connections to extremist white nationalism.  It’s sad because it’s regressive.  It’s also the truth. 

-How do we defeat Nazi ideals?  This is where the diversity of opinions and the siloed tribalism starts to set it.  Nazism is a fringe ideology that is extremely small.  Many opinions out there are lumping all white people, all men, and anyone not a “marginalized” person as the problem.  This is exactly what enhances feelings of anger and animosity that lead to the growth of extremism.  The other side is the growing culture of violence that is becoming pervasive overall.  More and more of this generation of student is becoming ok with the ideas of violence and censorship to combat extremism.  That’s frightening.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Notes from the 2017 Glacier Road Trip, Day Two

-Left Albany, Oregon at around 8:30 in the morning.  Really liked our motel, the Comfort Suites.

-We were going to pass through Portland but could not resist a few stops on our way to Richland, Washington.

-Trader Joe’s in Lake Oswego, Oregon has a nice wine selection but not the Petite Zinfandel that we are looking for.  Bought a couple of bottles to try instead and moved on.

-Stopped at Powell’s City of Books in Portland, quite possibly the greatest bookstore in the world.  Bought used versions of the Terry Brooks’ Sword of Shannara series which I picked up earlier this month and haven’t put down. 

-Public transit in Portland is quite good.  Traffic in Portland is a nightmare.  We were in traffic at 11 a.m. on a Saturday trying to go east out of Portland through the Columbia Gorge. 

-Thanks to the Safeway in Troutdale, Oregon for the decent Merlot and the free rib samples.

-The Columbia River Gorge is still quite beautiful from Troutdale to The Dalles.  After that it becomes a nice river surrounded by really dry hills. 

-We took a different route this time and went on Highway 97 north towards Yakima, Washington.  We passed within sight of Mount St. Helens and the blow out on the side of the mountain is clearly visible.

-We deviated from our normal route to wine taste in Prosser, Washington.  We walked into and out of Apex, Alexandria Nicole, and Milbrandt.  It was either because the wine being tasted weren’t interesting (Apex) or the winery was playing around with different flights and price points (Milbrandt and Alexandria Nicole).  We realized that we are might be done with the act of wine tasting because it is an expensive way to find out if wines suck. 

-We did taste at Kestrel.  In 2010 we loved it.  In 2017, not so much.

-Instead we went to Yoke’s Fresh Market in Richland and spent money on Washington reds that we researched prior.  We bought full bottles of good value reds for the same price as a crappy tasting at the other wineries.  Yoke’s had an excellent selection of Washington Reds for reasonable prices.

-We checked in at the Home 2 Suites in Richland and settled down for the night.   

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Notes from the 2017 Glacier Road Trip, Day One

-Left Ukiah around 8:10 a.m., around an hour later than we wanted to leave.  Also passed Highway 20 near Lake Mendocino about 40 minutes before the traffic accident that killed two people.   

-Stopped in Corning at the Hometown Cafe for breakfast with my father.  Good standard breakfast food at a reasonable price.

-The ex-Shell station at Gas Point Road in Cottonwood had a teenager talking with her friend on the phone while servicing customers.  I kept having problems with my pump and she stayed on the phone.  She should be fired.

-Too stuffed to stop at Yaks in Dunsmuir, which might have some of the best hamburgers in the country.

-Mt. Shasta still has a lot of snow on it.  This has not been the case in the previous five years. 

-Has Wendy’s transitioned to being famous for…..its salads?   I still go for the frosties.

-Did a quick wine run at the Ashland Safeway and found nothing except pretentious Bo-Bos complaining about a lack of baguettes.

-Stopped and did a quick visit with my grandmother in Ashland.  Lots of family drama on the agenda.  She’s also reading the Alexander Hamilton biography by Chernow.

-Stopped at Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon for cheese tasting.  Bought burrata and bread for later and ran into a colleague from Ukiah High School.  Small world. 

-Arrived at the Linn County Comfort Suites in Albany, Oregon around 6:30 in the evening.  Very nice hotel for a reasonable price on I-5 in Oregon. 

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The “Google Memo” is the worst Jerry Maguire sequel ever

James Damore got his Master’s in Systems Biology at Harvard, went to work at Google, and has now been fired for a 10 page manifesto about his perception of the workplace environment at his place of employment. 

You can read the manifesto here.  Please actually read the manifesto because about 70% of the people I’ve chatted with regarding this manifesto have never really read it. 

The letter is basically a suicide note.  Damore had to have known that writing it was going to led to a very quick exit from the company that is already facing gender equality issues.  Still, I have thoughts. 

-The memo is not anti-diversity.  You might not agree with the way Damore addresses enhancing the diversity at the Google Campus but check out the very first sentence;

“I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can't have an honest discussion about this,then we can never truly solve the problem.”

-The culture of the Left is about suppressing the ideas of everyone that fails to fit within their own world view; essentially shaming the people into silence.  There is a moral authority at play that seems to transcend reason to venture into the realm of elitism and vengeance.  I don’t know enough about Google’s corporate culture to understand the political leanings of their environment but the fact that the memo was written and that James Damore was removed by the Director of Diversity and Inclusion makes me wonder.

-Some of the biological factors that the memo addresses sound….interesting.  Higher anxiety and lower tolerance for stress?  Damore might want to try being pregnant and working, or fulfill the role as mother of household while being a full time employee.  I don’t know any data that supports his theory here.

-I do know that there is a strong amount of data supporting his assertion that women don’t seek raises with the same assertiveness as men, and that women seek to balance their work/non-work environment.  Check out the literature written by Anne Marie Slaughter or the work done by Harvard’s Claudia Goldin and you’ll see that plenty of evidence exists that gender pay gap is not discriminatory as much as it is status seeking vs. work/life.

-Damore advocates more collaboration.  How is this a bad thing?

  “We can make software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming and more collaboration.”

-We are now an empathy driven culture and that’s not necessarily a good thing.  However saying that empathy has negative externalities is great way to make you come off as a uncompassionate heathen.  Note Damore’s empathy comment;

“I’ve heard several calls for increased empathy on diversity issues. While I strongly support trying to understand how and why people think the way they do, relying on affective empathy—feeling another’s pain—causes us to focus on anecdotes, favor individuals similar to us, and harbor other irrational and dangerous biases. Being emotionally unengaged helps us better reason about the facts.”

He’s referencing Paul Bloom’s work on empathy and the work (like Damore’s commentary) isn’t anti-empathy, it’s a warning that a society built on peoples’ emotional reasoning is ineffective and dangerous

James Damore’s manifesto is, for the most part, fairly well reasoned.  It’s clearly not anti-diversity and while the memo drifts well into the realm of getting him fired, it’s certainly a legitimate topic to discuss.  The thing is that it probably won’t get much run within Google because the company is already in the throes of having to worry about gender equality issues (even though 20% of Google coders are women while only 18% of college grads in Comp Sci are women).   

Stay tuned.