Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Arguement for Taxing the Wealthy

I was recently sent a mass email (I will paste the email into the comments) from a family member which outlined the plight of the small business owner. Basically, when you own a company and it makes a profit at the end of the year, this is what you have to put on your tax return. So, when one considers Obama's screw all the people who make over $250,000 shtick, one cannot help worry about the group that is responsible for something like 80% of all employment (I'm not sure about this number and didn't feel like looking it up, feel free to do so, it might be even higher). Personally, I think it would be dumb to do anything to hinder job growth right now. The email that I am referring to was told from the perspective of the president of a company who made $530,000 in profit from the company. He argued that with that $530,000 he has to re-invest in the company so it can grow, and that how can he do that when he is getting taxed so strongly. With these things in mind, I present An Argument for Taxing the Wealthy (including small business owners to make over $250,000).

1. While it is true that the profit of a small business gets recorded as income for the business owner, I'd like to point out that the taxable income (net) is after business expenses which includes re-investing in the company. So using the above example, if this guy were to invest $284,000 back into his company then his net would be $250,000- and he'd be under the threshold. And by the way, if someone were to net out more than $250,000 from their company- well then I'd argue that they do deserve to pay that extra 5%, as you will see below.

2. Furthermore, a small business is an asset, just like a home or a car is an asset. When you re-invest into an asset, you typically increase the value of the asset in the process. I mean what kind of a moron would invest money in their company without the hope of it increasing the revenue/profit/value of the company by doing so. So, the boo-hoo I have to re-invest into my own company line is bullshit, you are investing in an asset you posses just like you invest in your 401k, or your house- the hope is that you will be able to sell it later and cash out the money you put into it. Now granted, a small business is a LOT risker than a 401k, savings, or a home- but hey that's the perils of a small business owner.

3. People should pay in proportion to the services they use, right? If I use more electricity, I should pay more. If I drive a truck on the government funded highways, and I profit from these taxpayer funded roads, then I should pay more to help keep them up and running. This is also true for the wealthy. By definition, if you are wealthy then society has benefited you. Granted, you may have worked hard for you money, but regardless, the social system that we live in and is how it is structured has lead to you being able to accrue wealth in one form or another. If we had a chaotic society, or an anarchical society, then odds are, you wouldn't be doing as well, or benefiting so much (freedom of economy is typically the first thing to go in a totalitarian or fascist regime).

This disproportionate benefital relationship between the haves and the have nots rationally leads to the conclusion that the haves should pay a bit more to keep society functioning, so that their business will continue functioning, so that they will be able to continue with their way of life. It is actually a selfish view that I am taking here, even though the results are unselfish. Makes sense to me...

4. This guy is basically a proponent of the trickle down economic theory adopted by Regan in the 80s. All that I have to say is that after 20 years of growth, this latest downturn has reduced us to pre-1982 levels and erased all of the supposed gains that trickle down economics (which reigned over those 20 years) produced. This may be surprising, but trickle down economics do not work. It has been proven to not work over these past 20 years, over the past 8 years, the average income of Americans has fallen by approximately 5%. Meanwhile, the top 1% wealthiest managed to accumulate 99% of the wealth in the country, a first in the history of the US. Never before in the history of our country has so much wealth been accumulated into such a small percentage of people.

Really though, is it surprising that trickle down economics does not translate into wealth for the middle class? I mean basically what you are saying is, Once you are rich, you stop being greedy. That really is the fundamental tenet of trickle down economics. Being as skeptical as most conservative economist who believe this, you would think that they wouldn't believe so strongly in the philanthropic soul of the rich. They got rich by being cut throat and saving every dollar they can (which I have no problem with), but why would you expect that to change if you just give them more?

5. $250,000 for your net income is over 500% of what the average American makes. That's five times (5x) more than the average American makes. I mean if you make that much more than the average person, shouldn't you foot a greater percentage of the bill? I make more than my girlfriend does (right now) so I pay proportionately more rent and bills and stuff. I consider this just and fair, why wouldn't this same principle apply to the wealthy?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Universal Villian

Here is an article on a blog that Liz likes called Jezebel about this ad from Dockers.

I thought the article was rather funny, especially the sarcastic remark to Dockers. I mean seriously, do you really think that wearing a pair of Dockers will make you manly? Thinking that manliness is somehow a function of what you look like on the outside is a serious misrepresentation of all that is man. But, I may ask what is manly?

From what I can tell from Jezebel and other female writers, it is something dark and evil. Manliness seems to wreak of patriarchy and misogyny according to these writers. Personally, I really don't see how opening a door for a person (note not woman) is somehow degrading. You don't open the door because you think the person is weak, you do it to be polite. A little bit of social grace in an otherwise rude world.

The bigger question I have right now, at this instant in time, what is equal? I mean that's what we are all striving for with the whole gender/minority inequity thing right? We are trying to make things equal and fair. Well what does that look like?
Is it that women need to be in overarching power, the kind of power that men have had for eons? Control of all systems of society from the economy, education, and government for a long period of time to balance out the past wrongdoers?
Or is equity when we have it 50/50? Equal numbers of female CEOs and judges and senators and a female president from time to time? Split nicely down the middle across the board, everywhere? In this case men have to lose some pay, and women need to gain some. Men need to give up many many seats in the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government. BUT, we would need some quotas for men's admission to universities and some balancing of the workforce for men as well. Sounds kinda wacky right?
Or could it be that maybe men are ahead in certain regions, and women are ahead in certain regions? How large of inequities in a given region are acceptable? To me this seems to be the inevitability. There is no way that we will ever have a statistically perfect 50/50 split of power between men, women, minorities, you name it. It will always ebb and flow.

Now I'm NOT suggesting that things are anywhere near equal right now. Women need to be paid the same as men, and need to have a hell of a lot more positions of power in business, education, and the government. Period. The thing that I am questioning, is when is enough enough?

Furthermore, when can men stop being punished for being men?

When can we be released from the role of Universal Villian?

Update: After I wrote this, I went to lunch and read this section of my favorite graphic novel, Preacher. Just too fitting to not add it to the end.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Down with the Trolls

Looks like shit hit the fan tonight with the Trolls. There were four or so cop cars sirens blasting chasing down people streaming from the undersides of the bridges. I could hear on the nearby cop radio people yelling and excited voices. So often do cops remind me of teenagers jacked up on adrenaline. None-the-less, I am glad that the police officers were there as there was a female victim of violence, and boy did they act fast. The witness to the crime was a tall scruffy looking man who was walking in orange crocs.

As soon as the first cop called it in, BAM, there was at least four cops patrolling (trolling ha) the local neighborhood. The firefighters showed up and started treating the girl who was directly across the street. She seemed shook up, but otherwise in good form. The interesting part is that every five to ten minutes another cop car zooms by at top speed, lights, sirens, the works.

As the incident wears down, the police take their statements from the witness. The SFFD ambulance takes the victim away to the local somewhere, and the street quiets back to it's normal grumble.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Mark of the Beast

Today at work, I was chatting with one of my coworkers about her cat's new found outdoor adventuring. I suggested that she get her cat microchipped, in case she gets lost especially w/o a collar and tags, the pound will know who to call. She quickly shook her head in a peculiar way and said quitely, "I don't believe in that." Immediately, I said, "Why?" Her response- "It's against my religion."

Woah, wait a second, backup here. The last time I heard this mumbo-jumbo was back when I was living in Michigan, and thought it was shit back then. First of all, we are talking about cats and dogs, and cows here, not people. Though some nutter parents are considering microchipping their kids, creepy if you ask me (control freak much?) How does this all relate to religion? Well those microchips are the mark of the beast. Yup you got it, the Devil works through silicon! Who knew...?

Here's the two relevant passages, forgive me for using two different Bible versions, but since it's all the word of God, I suppose it doesn't matter of they were edited by King James or not.

And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
-Rev. 13:17-18 (KJB)

He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.

Rev. 13:16-17 (NIV)

Left hand everyone, that's the key. You can do whatever you want to your left hand, bar code it, microchip it, tatoo 666 all over it, and it doesn't matter. Right hand only, oh and watch the forehead too...these passages just go to show how bonkers this whole line of reasoning really is. Now it may be that this whole thing is metaphorical, as religion really should be received. Perhaps it is some kind of a spiritual marking that it is referring to, and the whole forehead/righthand/lefthand thing is just some made up bullshit passed on over the years.

Furthermore, the kind of nutters that believe this crap are the same nutters who think that kitties have no soul, and are simply beasts put on earth for us humans. In that case, she should feel free to microchip her kitty anyway, who cares if it is a minion of the devil?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Time- Human Invention, or Part of Reality?

I was listening to another perspective on KQED today. A rather artsy hippy type talking about time, and specifically how it is a human construct built upon an agreement of the concept of time. This lead me to wondering, is time a purely human construct?

This wouldn't be too suprising, as so many things are human constructs (in my humble opinion). For example, color distinction (there's really a spectrum, discrete colors are human), God and religion, money and economy (sorta- interesting work has been done on primates, but hey they are like our retarded cousins), and fashion. Some of these things extend into the animal world, but typically they don't go very far (like I've never seen a croc with a hat, or banana slug accounting). Even our political system is a hierarchy that extends from the same alpha/beta/gamma/delta system you see in social species like the great apes troops, prides of lions, etc- but clearly the political construct is a reflection of our humanity.

So, why not time?

In some ways I agree with the lady. Take the international date line. Is it really a different day on one side of the line vs the other? No. Obviously you can't have half of your body in one time/space point, and the other half one day later but same time/space just doesn't make sense. That line is a human construct that helps to mesh the human perspective (living on a rotating sphere with a big bright sun in the center of our solar system) with the very non-human ticking of the atoms that make us up. Hell, I'd go so far as to say that the second is a purely human construct. Think about it, a second is 1/3600th of an hour, and an hour is 1/24 of a day, and a day is 1/365th of a revolution around our sun...OUR SUN. That's the human bit. A space invader from alpha-centuri isn't going to know what the hell a second is, they'll know what a falkinboo is- that's 1/4598th of a bookinva, which is 1/45 of a revolution around alpha-centuri. Or it's how many times their baby farts in an hour, whatever. The point is that clearly there are some things wrt time that really are human.

But that about time?

Personally, as a scientist, I think that time is one of the few things that is not simply human. We have a time t=0 - um the Big Bang; and we have an absolute metronome- the cesium atom. There was a gun that started the race 13.7 billion years ago, and every time an electron zips around a cesium atom, there is a steady ticking to count off the time between the bang of the gun and where we are now. This is pretty much all that you need to account for time.

It all gets screwed when you throw in the beautiful wrench that is Relativity. Basically time is not constant and depends on the frame of reference. If the frame of reference is moving or is in a gravitational field (eg Earth/Sun), then atomic clocks will tick differently. This has been proven with GPS satellites. They cruise around in an orbit around the Earth, in a smaller gravitational field than we do down here on Earth's surface, and their on board clocks slowly go out of sync with the ones on Earth. Now consider the Big Bang itself. Imagine the crazy gravity fields and energies and velocities and crazy shit that must have happened in those first few thousand ticks. Who knows what time was doing in those quantum moments.

Perhaps 13.7 billion years isn't so black and white. Perhaps that atomic clock isn't so tick-tock.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Women Employed Than Men

In the next year or so women's employment numbers should surpass men's for the first time in US history.

That's big news.

On KQED they have a program called "Perspectives". It showcases different essays from people in the Bay Area. Yesterday, they had a labor guy on called Dick Meister who commented on some new statistics to come out of the Recession. Here's an article he wrote and some quotes from it.

"The number of women workers has been growing steadily for decades, but the number has boomed during the recession. That's partly because the greatest job losses have been in male-dominated fields such as construction and manufacturing. Men have lost more than three million jobs in those areas alone since the recession began in late 2007. Three-quarters of all jobs lost - a total of 4.75 million - were held by men. Women lost three million fewer jobs."

This translates into the fact that women have or are about to become the dominate gender in the workforce. One sad part is that some of this is due to the fact that women make less, and so were hired in greater numbers during the recession. That still needs to change because the quality of your work doesn't really depend on having a vagina or a penis (unless you are talking about certain heavy lifting jobs like fireman- I mean watch Rescue Me for a couple of seasons if you really want to debate this subject, in which case an over abundance of testosterone is an asset). Here is how Dick Meister put it.

"The figures are downright spectacular. Local governments, for instance, have laid off 86,000 men during the recession, but they have hired 167,000 women. That's largely because women generally are paid less than men and are hired mainly for office jobs, which typically are better funded than other government positions."

I am encouraged and frightened by all of this, which I think anyone in the position of "majority" going to "minority" might feel. I am encouraged to see that minorities status groups are capable of gaining equality. I suppose surprised wouldn't be the right word, as I've been mentioning the higher graduation rates of women for a few years now, but I am excited to see what will happen. I am frightened by what they may decide to do with that majority. So often in history the oppressed become the oppressors, and I just hope that this time will history will not repeat itself. Personally, I don't see how women could possibly fuck things up as bad as their male counterparts. Not to mention that most (if not all) matriarchal societies that I have read about are much more peaceful and prosperous than many patriarchal societies. I figure we've had our chance, time to move over and see what the ladies can do.

So I for one welcome our new overlords, and hope they are kind to their new minions.

Sorry for the recent drought. I've got a couple things on deck, but work has been busy, and these blogs get wearing. Photoblog is still going!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Michael Pollan's Take on The Healthcare Debate

Read this from NYTimes contributor, Michael Pollan.

We have known about the link between diet and health for such a long time, it amazes me that nothing is being done to address this side of the puzzle. Even with a perfect healthcare system, can we really hope to expect to take care of every fat ass? At least the cost of healthcare is an incentive against unhealthy life choices, all be it a poor incentive. Can we really hope to keep people healthy if they get out of bed, eat breakfast, get in a car, go to work, sit in their office chair, get in their car, sit and eat lunch, get in their car, sit in the office, get in the car, go home, eat dinner while watching TV, and goes to bed- oh wait, was that a question?

"But so far, food system reform has not figured in the national conversation about health care reform. And so the government is poised to go on encouraging America’s fast-food diet with its farm policies even as it takes on added responsibilities for covering the medical costs of that diet. To put it more bluntly, the government is putting itself in the uncomfortable position of subsidizing both the costs of treating Type 2 diabetes and the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup."

Personally, I don't see how it is possible to attack one issue (the system and its problems) while not addressing the lifestyle issues as well. We as a culture are over fed, over worked, under rested, and we exercise far too little. Add on to this the issues that Pollan has consistently raised regarding farm subsidization and the Big Agro which runs our sad food supply.

What really strikes me as depressing is how you immediately see the same logical chain as any other societal problem, only inversed. Normally, you have a group that has its corporate model tied to a piece of legislation that will typically harm the industry by creating restrictions on a part of their corporate model. They lobby the government by lining the coffers of the government officials in charge of making these decisions. This derails the legislation, and voila nothing is accomplished.
Trying to take a notch out of Big Agro means government deregulation of their industry. This means taking out legislation in order to remove the restrictions on the industry. These incentives are things like farm subsides encouraging the growth of #2 Monsanto Corn. Here we are back at the corporate/government interface; Monsanto and Cargil lobby the department of agriculture and the Congressional committee that is responsible for the Farm Bill each year, and voila you get no changes in policy.

The light that Pollan sees at the end of the tunnel is something like this; we have the insurance companies fight the agro companies because when the insurance companies cannot just boot out chronic illness like type 2 diabetes anymore, then they have to deal with the root of the problem- the food system:

"But these rules may well be about to change — and, when it comes to reforming the American diet and food system, that step alone could be a game changer. Even under the weaker versions of health care reform now on offer, health insurers would be required to take everyone at the same rates, provide a standard level of coverage and keep people on their rolls regardless of their health. Terms like “pre-existing conditions” and “underwriting” would vanish from the health insurance rulebook — and, when they do, the relationship between the health insurance industry and the food industry will undergo a sea change."

Friday, September 04, 2009

New Favorite Camera - What I've been doing

Is actually a microscope, and it doesn't use light but uses electrons.

This is a sample of CIGS (CdInGaSe) which is the newish cheap way to make solar cells.
This is an attached x-ray spectrometer which looks at the energies of the x-rays that spew off of the sample b/c of the electrons that are bombarding it. It can be used to determine what materials are being looked at because each element gives off a special spectrum which is like a fingerprint of that element.
Here is what is inside an LED. There is a gold (Au) ball bond (it's squished) on the top colored in yellow. Red is gallium (Ga), and blue is arscenide (As) which is what makes up the material that actually shines light and you can see there is a bunch of Ga at the top, and a mixture (purple) towards the bottom. The teal is silver (Ag) that electrically and thermally connects the whole thing to the lead at the bottom in red which is made of iron (Fe).

Kinda awesome!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Chillin on Top of the Hyatt

Liz and I met up with Brian and Anne for some pre-movie drinks on top of the Hyatt. I just liked this picture of Brian with the face shirt behind him too much to not post it. We all enjoyed a bottle of the bubblies, and went to our respective shows. They saw District 9 and gave it a positive review, and Liz and I saw the new Miyazaki movie "Ponyo" which was barfingly adorable, and a great little kid movie on par with My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, and The Cat Returns. I highly suggest you go see it, especially if you need a little moral pick-me-up.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Only Healthcare Debate - The Numbers

I think this debate can be had by simply looking at the numbers. People keep referring to these "other" nationalized health care systems like Canada, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and France as examples. Typically the right will demonize them as socialist-commie-bastards who give their elderly cyanide tablets and shoot their cancer patients with a $0.99 bullet. As a person who actually knows the numerical facts, this has really been getting on my nerves, especially since the left are too wimpy to actually stand up and defend these national health care systems. I thought it was about time to see just how "bad" Canada, et al are actually faring. I highly recommend you read this Krugman editorial from NYTimes on the debate.

Firstly, I will be looking at the United States, Canada, the UK, France, and Switzerland.
How much does each of these countries pay in health care per year?

United States of America - 15.3% of GDP (#2 of all countries), $7,439 per capita (2007), 27.8% of the population covered by gov't but pays ~44.7% of the total cost due to the uninsured, medicare, and medicaid, 15.3% of pop uninsured (2007)
Switzerland-11.6% of GDP, $4,629 per capita (2008 est), 25% funded by gov't, 0.5% uninsured
Canada- 10.6% of GDP, $5,170 per capita (2008), 71% funded by gov't, 0% uninsured
United Kingdom- 9.4% GDP (2006), $2,560 per capita (2007), too much work for the rest of the statistics, UK is broken down by providence so it was difficult to get straight answers
France - 11.2% of GDP, $3,926 per capita (2005), 77% funded by government, 0% uninsured
(from Wikipedia, and various sources in the interwebs)

Now lets ask about the quality of care. I mean if we are paying the most, and since all those other countries are shooting their old and sick, then we should have the best health right?

The two major indicators of health of a population are infant mortality rates and life expectancy, as the very young and very old are the most helped/hindered by good/bad health care systems.

Life Expectancy (from Wolfram Alpha):
1 Canada | 81.23  
2 France | 80.98 
3 Switzerland | 80.85  
4 United Kingdom | 79.01  
5 United States | 78.11 (in years)

Infant Mortality rate (under 5yrs old deaths/1000 people- Wolfram Alpha 2009):
1 | France | 3.33 
2 | Switzerland | 4.18 
3 | United Kingdom | 4.85 
4 | Canada | 5.04 
5 | United States | 6.26

So, now, I have to ask, what do you think of the people who vilify all of these country's health care systems? What is the debate? There is no debate! We spend the most, and get the least- this means that something has to change. Personally, I think we should look to Canada and Switzerland as role models because they still have private healthcare. I know that this sounds like a lie, but it is true, look it up, health care insurance is provided by private enterprises in those two countries. The only difference between theirs and ours is that tax payers pick up a portion of it, and well, their health care system actually works, based upon the numbers.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tennessee Valley Hike

This is a really nice loop hike just north of SF in the Marin Headlands called Tennessee Valley. The loop (not complete in picture) is approximately 7 miles in total, with a 1000ft elevation gain/loss. We went with Becca, Bri, Dave, and their little bro Andrew (Drew).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Round My House

I haven't really been able to get any great pictures of the areas directly around my house, until now. This new wide-angle has really opened up the city-scape for me, and I thought I'd break it in by walking around my neighborhood at dusk. This is the typical time that Liz and I go for a walk to the corner market, LaLoma Market #13. It is on the far right of the picture at the top. We also hung out on the Richland Bridge for 10 minutes or so watching the traffic and trains go below.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Nihilism, Agnosticism, Angels, and Belief

I thought it was about time to revisit my discussions on various points of view. This time I would like to discuss belief. What do you believe in? This is a very important question, one which sheds a floodlight on who you are as a person. This question can be applied to small things like, do you think (believe) that it will rain today? It can be applied to the big things like, do you believe that the universe started in a massive outward explosion of particles? Or everything in between, do you believe girls fart (yes I do), or do you believe that people should be put to death by the state (no I don't), do you believe that there are guardian angels?

Turns out that approximately 55% of Americans DO in fact believe that they have their very own personal guardian angel watching over them and protecting them (according to this Washington Times article from almost 1 year ago):

"Half of all Americans believe they are protected by guardian angels, one-fifth say they've heard God speak to them, one-quarter say they have witnessed miraculous healings, 16 percent say they've received one and 8 percent say they pray in tongues, according to a survey released Thursday by Baylor University."

Now, that's fine with me, sure a little on this side of delusional, but hey, to each their own. I've said this before, but I happen to be agnostic. This basically means that I think the verdict is still out on the whole God thing (which, in my book includes angels at the very least). The question that I'd like to pose is, does that mean that I believe in something? I mean who's verdict am I waiting for while sitting on the fence? Is it the scientists? If that's the case then I believe and have faith in science, logic, and reasoning (I'm cool with that). Or am I waiting for God to show me a sign of her existence, in which case I will believe fully in that God? If that's the case then I believe and have faith in God (something that is not independently verifiable- which leads to existentialism- something I'm not so cool with). Or do I not believe in anything and am just sitting on the fence for the shits and giggles...

That leads me to Nihilism which according to Wikipedia:

Nihilism (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is the philosophical doctrine suggesting that values do not exist but rather are falsely invented. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life[1] is without meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Moral nihilists assert that morality does not exist, and subsequently there are no moral values with which to uphold a rule or to logically prefer one action over another.

How is this position possible? To me it seems like circular logic, I don't believe in anything except for a firm belief in nothing. I mean think about it, how can you believe in nothing (We believe in nothing Lebowski!) when the statement of the belief in the absence of belief is belief itself. Not to mention the conundrum of the fact that there seem to be some absolute moral truths; don't rape children, don't murder if possible, genocide is bad, hugs are good, sex is good, sure I'm leaving a bunch out but those are some moral truths that I certainly believe in right now. To believe that morality does not exist on some level just seems to be naive and hopeless. Maybe I just don't want to live in the same lonely dark filled world that nihilists and existentialists believe in living. I really don't think that what I believe or what anyone believes is just as good as any other view point. There are somethings that we can all agree upon and that is where we can start, on what we all can agree to be true.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

In the Belly of the Beast

I have now been working at my new job for about one month now and my first impressions are along the lines of, Whoa...

This company is much larger than my previous employer and I am finding the sheer scale of operations to be a bit daunting. I now realize that previously I was performing the tasks of people who fill 5 or 6 (more like 10ish) positions at this new place. I now can focus more directly on my own role in the lab, rather than on keeping track of all the different responsibilities I had before. This has its pros and cons. I am able to get more done and in a faster fashion, but at the same time, I'm not juggling as many balls, which had it's own invigorating merits. I have to say that I am lucky for my previous multi-faceted work experience because it gave me a good overview of how a company is run internally through many different departments and will be a huge asset moving forward. Not to mention that now I am mainly dealing with ICs (integrated circuits), where as before I was dealing with everything high tech, across all sectors and fields. This too will really allow me to remain broad within the narrow field of Failure Analysis (though not too narrow to be fair).

My second major revealation comes from how I as an individual am being treated here- like a Grownup of all things! I mean I know that 28 is still rather young, but not having to take competancy tests, not needing to fill out a time card, and having my opinions honestly considered really makes me feel like a professional adult. I guess what it really boils down to is trust. I am being trusted to be intelligent and not waste time. Before, I was being trusted to not screw up the lab while my boss was out, but not trusted to be intelligent and not waste time. I always found that juxtaposition to be rather daunting.

Finally, THE DRAMA! It is amazing how the amount of drama goes like the number of people cubed, well, acutally I think it's more like n! b/c it probably scales with the number of relationships that are possible and I think that is n! in math terms. You go from 24 possible relationships with 4 people (ie groupings of people who can talk and generate drama) up to 120 possible relationships when there are 5 people involved. I am working with approximately 6 people who directly affect my life which is approximately 360 possible relationships, mmm drama. There isn't even that much drama, just a few conflicts of personality (by others around me, but not actually me btw, I love everyone!) that affect my life, but it is still very stark in comparision to zero drama (well, near zero drama).

Anywho, I just thought I'd share some of my first impressions on going from a small company to a medium company. It has been an interesting experience and I am still learning loads everyday about business, failure analysis, engineering, and myself. (The above image is an x-ray image of the cross-sectional view of a wire bonding to a lead.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What Does Jesse DO?

People ask me what do you do? It's often a hard question because there is so much to this industry, that when I say, well I work in high tech, it doesn't quite capture it. It's really more like, I try to figure out whether/why a high tech thing is breaking, broken, or otherwise messed up in various ways. There is a number of techniques that can be used. At my lab we can use optical microscopy, x-ray transmission microscopy, and acoustic microscopy to look at something without messing with it. However, to get a more complete picture of what's going on, you have to mess with it. This is done by removing parts to directly inspect what is left with things like an optical microscope, or a scanning electron microscope (which will be coming soon). Basically I'm making pretty pictures, so I thought I'd show some of them to illustrate what it is that I do.

These are all optical images:

This is a typical BGA (Ball Grid Array) package. From the top down you have the copper heat sink, followed mold compound (plasticy stuff) with filler particles (SiO2 particles), and that's followed by the brains of the operation- the leads connecting to the silicon die. The bottom of the die is attached to the ground though the "die attach" which also dissipates heat.

Here is a closer view of the leads, silicon die, die attach, and the via (metal filled with plastic) that grounds the die. However, in this image you can see that there is a "void" in the plastic filling the via.

This is what's called a "dark field" image. Basically instead of looking at the direct reflections of the light, which makes all of the metal bits very bright, this looks at the sides of the beam rather than the center of the beam. Here you can really see that void.
This is the higher magnifications of the leads connecting to the active side of the silicon die. If you look close you can see the transistors and the pad that the lead frame.

Here you can see the individual transistors (or whatever it may be) which here which look to be about 5um thick. There is an empty pad, or something, off to the far left. You can see the boxed in area on the right is something like 20 um2, and is the pad has now become an intermetalic mixture or alloy.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Trolls Live Under the Bridges

This is our bridge, the Richland Ave bridge over San Jose Ave (which becomes Guerrero St a few hundred yards up). It is a nice bridge and I think it looks cool. However, there is more here than the eye can see. Notice the area between the hillside and the bridge abutment? Trolls live there. I'm serious. Real-life honest-to-goodness, trolls.

Here is a slightly better shot of the space to which I am referring. They don't exactly extract a toll from crossers, but there is an unusually high rate of car vandalisation and break-ins on the bridge. I had both of my locks messed with, the driver's side no longer works ($200 to fix), you often see broken windows and glass in the parking areas, and even Liz's old school 1984 Accord was broken into (they didn't get anything but left the door open and the battery went dead).

One hole in the fence means a troll infestation on the order of dozens. Liz has counted between 10 and 20 people going in and out of this space under the bridge during a typical day. During the nights you can hear them yell and shout and scream, sometimes they will throw glass bottles down into the abutment for 5 or 10 minutes creating quite a racket. The sounds that echo up from these spaces makes me think of how it will sound when civilization comes apart at the seams. But who knows...

What do they do under here? Drugs? Sex? A little of both? You can see in this picture that they have made a bit of a nest under there for themselves. The other day we saw a perfectly normal looking red head skulking around our Troll hole. What did she need? She kept darting up and down from below. Was she waiting for her dealer, her hookup, a hookup, to hookup, or what?

Are they just poor sad homeless people who need some shelter from the wind and fog? I have spoken to a couple of them, typical immigrants from Mexico or Central America, down on their luck. I truly feel for these poor folks, but that doesn't change the facts, they are our very own, modern day- Trolls.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ray's First Show

Great job Ray!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Desolation Crew

Brian in true form.
Liz soaking up the last rays.

Anne reading on a split rock.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Desolation Wilderness

This weekend I went away with Liz, Brian and Anne to do some backpacking in Desolation Wilderness. This was my second time going, but it was just as beautiful as I remember. Here's what the hike looked/felt like. I will be posting some pictures later.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another Photo Published

Today I got a nice little treat, one of my pictures made it on the SFist blog seen here. Always nice to be appreciated by others. Sorry I haven't been posting as often here, but I've been busy with life!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Job!

I have managed to secure a new job at a new company with new pay and new skills to learn. I am sad to leave my co-workers, as I've always enjoyed their company. I've enjoyed working with all of them and will miss the laughs. However, I am very excited about this new prospect as my previous job didn't seem to have much in the way of a future if I stuck with it for too long, especially as I have said before, at the pay scale they were offering. The problem can be explained by the following:

When I was interviewing with one of the higher ups he said something very interesting to me, there are two teirs in any industry; Technician and Technologist. You want to be the Technologist. I was worried that I would get stuck at Technician. The problem is that there is a barrier between the Technicians and the Technologist. For starters, there must always be more Technicians than Technologists. This means that the Technicans must be paid much less than the Technologists or else the business model won't work. Also, you can only move up through when a Technologist leaves their position. Now, I don't know if you noticed, but the stock market crashed, which means that people's retirement investments crashed, which means they are going to be working for longer than ever before as they need to make up the difference. This coupled with the fact that people are living longer and healthier lives means upward mobility for the rest of us is squashed, not to mention that older people tend to say, "Well that's how we've always done it." I would say I am now at the upper reaches of the Technican status, but I am that much closer to breaking through the veil.

The great thing is that I accomplished my two goals with this company. I wanted to get into the high tech world and get a feel for the industry and key players, and I wanted to develop my network of people to help me find a new job. I can honestly say that these goals were accomplished. This allows me to walk away with my head held high.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Penelope Trunk - Brazen Careerist Blog

Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist Blog is one of the best to which I am currently subscribing. She is insightful and willing to take on the uncomfortable issues like how much oral sex different demographics receive, and today she's pointing her finger at overpaid doctors

I also found these two articles (End of the Glass Ceiling, Forget a Wage Gap) discussing gender equality to be very enlightening. These in conjunction with this article about the Gender Gaps that still exist. She has a very interesting take on how to view the problem, rather than starting with the assumption that there even is a problem. I don't know that I 100% agree with her, but I am happy that someone (especially an intelligent lady) is discussing our assumptions about the issue, and questioning what the true definition of equality really means. Do you really want to have the same life as men have had? As I posted before, it doesn't mean happiness. 

Finally, I wanted to link to her discussion of how to politely wiggle around the interview question, "How much do you want to be paid?" I made two (among many) rookie mistakes when getting my current job, I answered this question, and I didn't come back with a counter offer. When you are out there looking for you next employment, always make sure that they give you the number first, and that you always come back with a counter. The first is important because you can only undercut your value by giving them a number (because if you are high, then you might not get the job, and if you are low then you are selling yourself short). The second is important because what's the worst they can say to a counter offer? No. I just know that some of you are/will be looking for jobs, and I HIGHLY recommend that you read this post before you go into the interview.

Thank you Penelope for an excellent blog, I will be reading avidly. 

Monday, June 01, 2009

Mom is a Graduate

A couple of weekends ago, my Mom at age 55, became a college graduate, the first in her family. I am very proud of her achievement, and know how hard it was for her on many levels. She graduated valedictorian with a 3.96 GPA from Marygrove College in Detroit with a BSW (Bachelors in Social Work). I would like to take a minute to reflect on some of the hurdles that my Mom had to overcome to arrive a such a wonderful achievement this spring. 

She grew up in Auburn Hills Michigan in the farm country which was in the process of developing into the suburbs of Detroit. Fairly classic white flight region, she was the daughter of a WWII vet who came home to work for a construction firm doing bids and various other tasks. The family had its problems with the typically rambunctious kids getting the attention while my Mom just tried to keep her head down and stay out of trouble. She was the classic "good one" and manged to keep her nose out of drugs, sex, and all the other things that can so easily de-rail the teenager life. 

The problem was with society. You have this obviously intelligent girl who has a bright future, but no one to tell her that she could and should achieve the stars. In fact my Mom has told me a story about her high school guidance councillor, whom we all know can be rather hit or miss. My Mom wanted to become a teacher when she was in high school, and said as much to her councillor. The councillor (among others) basically told her, why? All you need to do is marry a rich man and you will be all set. Look out for that diamond ring, pop out a baby and go from there. It is so sad to think about how different my Mom's (and my own) life would be if that person had said something encouraging. I probably wouldn't even be alive...

My Mom has always harped on getting a proper education. I can't tell you how many young girls my Mom grilled about getting into college and getting some kind of a degree. I think that she always felt partially powerless about her employment situation, and didn't want other girls to go through the same trials and tribulations. I can remember time and again when girl-friends would come over to my place, they would always get an ear full from my Mom about graduating from high school and going on to college. She always painted it as a non-option, rather, something that you JUST DO!

Now, after a marriage, having two kids, losing one of them tragically to a drowning, a divorce, raising her niece through the trials of puberty, a re-marriage, getting her son through college, some financial distress, and the pressure of being an older student- she has done it! She has put her money where her mouth is and snagged that degree from the sky. 

I am so proud of her, I can hardly stand it. Here is to you Mom, I hope this boosts you to a profession that you have always wanted- to be a teacher. 

She has been accepted at the University of Michigan School of Social Work for the 2010 Class. UofM has a great program (ranked 2nd according to this site). She's been pretty snarky about it being "HER" school, but I'd just like to point out who went first!  =P take that mom!

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Traps Are Set - We Told You So!

I was listening to Tom Ashbrook's Week in the News from last week and the guests were talking about the recent face-off between President Obama and former Vice President Dick "Dark Side" Cheney. One commenter pointed out that the Republicans, specifically Dick, have set up a very interesting trap for President Obama. They are claiming that by ending the torture of the detainees at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, Obama and the Dems are risking the lives of American citizens by increasing the probability of another terrorist attack. This way, in the event that we get attacked, they can point their fingers and say, "HAHAHAAaa we told you so!" 

The other interesting part of the Republicans defense of their tactics and methods for "Making America Safe" is that we were never attacked again after 911. I have never found this to be a compelling argument because they are using a non-event as proof, which is simply ridiculous child logic. Let's see what else I can come up with using this same logic. How about, I've smoked every day, and I haven't died yet, so clearly cigarettes aren't lethal. Or what about, I've had unprotected sex my whole life and I haven't gotten an STD, clearly STDs are something made up by the media. Try on this one, we've been burning fossil fuels for hundreds of years with no consequences, clearly this does nothing to the environm-oh wait.

Finally, I'd like to point out that Dick is putting himself on the same side of the fence as the terrorists by making this argument. He is setting Obama up for a fall in hopes that something horrible like another attack will occur so that he can point his finger and say, Told ya so!

I'd like to point to Ann Coulter's book Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism and ask her, who are the treasonous ones now? Personally, all I see is a bunch of hardcore right wingers rooting for the bad guys to come and blow us all up so that they can dance around the flames singing, We told you, we told you, we told you, hahahaa! (The image is from the Ghostbusters movie.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Rise of Women and Fall of Their Happiness

Many of you have heard me talk about this, here is an article describing an interesting statistic. According to some polls women's reported happiness has fallen over the last 30 years despite rising rates of salary, education, graduation, employment out of the home, etc. On the flip side, over the same period, men have grown happier. What gives? Any theories? 

More on Pessimism and Optimisim

From this Smarterware blog which is talking about this Atlantic article. Appearantly there is a Harvard medical study that has been going on since the 1930s tracking some male graduates through their entire life with yearly psychological evaluations. The goal of the study is to gain a better understanding of what makes us happy, sad, fufilled, etc. Turns out that optimism and good squishy things like kindness, understanding, empathy and all that fuzzy good stuff is the best for long term happiness, but suprisingly pessimism and negative emotions like anger, fear, and all those dark melancholic things are good for the short term. In the words of the lead researcher, 

"Positive emotions make us more vulnerable than negative ones. One reason is that they’re future-oriented. Fear and sadness have immediate payoffs—protecting us from attack or attracting resources at times of distress. Gratitude and joy, over time, will yield better health and deeper connections—but in the short term actually put us at risk. That’s because, while negative emotions tend to be insulating, positive emotions expose us to the common elements of rejection and heartbreak."

Clearly this connect to the previous post, and I think even more interestingly, to Matt's comment about the direction of time with reguard to the cynical and skeptical viewpoints. How does the past influcence your view of the future? 

Monday, May 18, 2009

BBC: Your Pictures- Tiny

I was published on the BBC's user generated content photoblog. They do a different subject every few weeks, and I submitted this image of a little newt on Anne's hands for their recent subject of "Tiny". Here you can find the slideshow and here you can find the organizer's blog for the "Your Pictures" section, where he chose the same picture to headline his article about the section. 

Pretty cool!

I'd like to point to a new feature on my photoblog- I added a place to buy the pictures if you would like. It starts at $10 for a 6"x9" and goes from there. It is all done through 3rd parties, and will be billed and shipped to you by them. I'm not even sure how much I get per picture, but I jus thought it might be a convenient way to get my stuff out there. Here's the link to the newt picture on my photoblog. Thanks!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Optimism and Pessimism- Skepticism and Cynicism

This is hopefully the start of a series that I have been rolling around in my brain for the past six months. I am curious, what is the difference between skepticism and cynicism using the framework of optimism and pessimism? I think we can all agree that on one end of the spectrum is optimism and on the other end of the spectrum is pessimism. Using this as our basis, where do the various mental view points fall? More to come.

In this entry, I would like to talk about skepticism and cynicism. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about each:

"In ordinary usage, skepticism or scepticism (Greek: 'σκέπτομαι' skeptomai, to look about, to consider; see also spelling differences) refers to:
  • (a) an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object;
  • (b) the doctrine that true knowledge or knowledge in a particular area is uncertain; or
  • (c) the method of suspended judgment, systematic doubt, or criticism that is characteristic of skeptics (Merriam–Webster)."
Cynicism (Greek: Kυνισμός) originally comprised the various philosophies of a group of ancient Greeks called the Cynics, founded by Antisthenes in about the 4th century BC. The Cynics rejected all conventions, whether of religion, manners, housing, dress, or decency, advocating the pursuit of virtue in a simple and unmaterialistic lifestyle.

By the 19th century, emphasis on the negative aspects of Cynic philosophy led to a new and very different understanding of cynicism to mean an attitude of jaded negativity, and a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of other people. Modern cynicism, as a product of mass society, is a distrust toward ethical and social values, especially when there are high expectations concerning society, institutions and authorities which are unfulfilled. Cynicism can manifest itself by frustration, disillusionment and distrust in regard to organizations, authorities and other aspects of society, and can result from a negative evaluation of past experiences."

As I read it, skepticism is similar to the classical definition of cynicism, but the modern definition of cynicism has a negative slant to its description. It seems that the skeptic doesn't care about positive/negative viewpoints, but rather is concerned with the truth, and believes that the truth may very well be unattainable. It does not seem to me that the skeptic falls on either side of the optimistic/pessimistic midpoint, but rather skeptics straddle that line with a doubtful eye on all knowledge.

The strange thing is that the cynic was originally framed to be similar to skeptic, except for perhaps being more extreme and throwing away all beliefs in everything. Today it seems that the cynic is a jaded version of the skeptic. I feel that the cynic is skeptical that anything is good or positive, especially with reguard to people and society. I would say that a cynic is a skeptical pessimist. They aren't ready to always throw a negative slant on everything without appropriate consideration, but generally their consideration leads them to a negative viewpoint.

I bring all of this up because I hear people throw all of these words around interchanably and I wanted to know what these viewpoints actually mean. Also, I have learned that I do not want to be cynic. I am (I think) a skeptic, and nothing more.