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December 2011

Hill's Bills: New Legislation Takes Effect January 1

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Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D - San Mateo, authored nine bills that have already or will become law on January 1, 2012.  Hill’s comprehensive gas pipeline safety reform measure, AB 56, that was introduced in response to the San Bruno explosion and his legislation to crack down on repeat DUI offenders, AB 1601, which seeks to take thousands of dangerous drivers off the road each year, will become law on January 1.
 
Two of Hill’s bills that were signed by the Governor this year came from entries submitted to his annual “Oughta Be A Law…Or Not” constituent bill idea contest.  AB 75 will help to protect consumers and businesses from deceptive mail solicitations and AB 459 adds California to the list of states who are opting for a popular vote to elect the President selecting the winner based on total votes nationwide instead of the current system of electoral votes which limits elections to battleground states. “I’m honored that these reforms are becoming state law,” Hill said.  “My hope is that they improve the safety and quality of life for my constituents and all Californians.”  
 
AB 56 (Chapter 519, Statutes of 2011) – Gas Pipeline Safety. Prompted by the deadly San Bruno gas pipeline explosion, this bill requires remote-controlled shut off valves in high population areas and the comprehensive testing and record-keeping of gas transmission lines. It also prohibits utilities from using ratepayer money to pay penalties for safety violations assessed by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and requires natural gas corporations to meet annually with local fire departments to review emergency response plans.
 
AB 1601 (Chapter 301, Statutes of 2010) – Cracking Down on Repeat DUI Offenders. Judges would be empowered to suspend a driver’s license for 10 years after a third DUI conviction. The current limit is three years and the authority to suspend a license rests with the Department of Motor Vehicles. If every judge utilized the 10-year license revocation created in this legislation, over 10,000 repeat DUI offenders could be removed from California roadways every year.
 
AB 75 (Chapter 269, Statutes of 2011) – Cracking Down on Fraudulent Solicitations. Closes significant loopholes with respect to notary services and misleading solicitations sent to homes and businesses.  Solicitors often send official looking letters that contain threats of penalties, fines, and license suspension unless payment is remitted immediately.  The letters appear to be from government agencies and cause many unsuspecting individuals and businesses to pay hundreds of dollars.  The bill requires disclosure of nongovernmental status to be placed at the top of the first page of the solicitation to avoid any deception and gives the Secretary of State with the discretion to refuse to authenticate a document that is clearly intended to be used for fraudulent purposes. Under current law, the Secretary of State is forced to authenticate clearly fraudulent documents because it is not allowed to use its discretion. Constituent Bill Idea Contest Winner from 2010.
 
AB 459 (Chapter 188, Statutes of 2011) – National Popular Vote for President. Seeks to enact a national popular vote for President wherein whichever candidate receives the most votes will be guaranteed to be elected. Currently, candidates campaign exclusively in a few battleground state and often ignore issues of particular importance to California. Under this bill California, in conjunction with other states, will award all of its electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The legislation does not go into effect until it is adopted by states representing a majority of the Electoral College. Constituent Bill Idea Contest Winner for 2011.
 
AB 89 – (Chapter 390, Statutes of 2011) – Pension Reform Savings for San Mateo County. Would allow San Mateo County to implement a memorandum of understanding providing lower retirement tiers for new employees represented by the Deputy Sheriff's Association. The county recently negotiated a six-year MOU with the union that will require new hires to choose reduced retirement formulas and could result in savings over $10 million.
 
AB 1349 (Chapter 185, Statutes of 2011) – Discretion for Judges, Paternity, Non-Biological Parents. Strengthens the legal rights of non-biological parents in California. The bill allows courts leeway in cases where there is both a non-biological parent who has an established relationship with a child and a man who signed a voluntary declaration of paternity. It was written in response to a ruling that found that courts could not recognize a non-biological parent who has raised a child, even though the biological father had no relationship with the child.
 
AB 320 (Chapter 570, Statutes of 2011) – CEQA Clarification. Clarifies that the "real party in interest" named in a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit for a particular project are those identified by the lead agency as persons undertaking the publicly-funded project or receiving the permit. Currently, to prevent important cases from being dismissed by procedural tactics, CEQA practitioners are forced to name and serve parties that neither want nor need to be involved.
 
ABX1 15 (Chapter 3, Statutes of 2011) – Tax Clarification for California Solar Companies (took effect earlier this year as an urgency measure). Provides tax certainty for solar energy companies located in California. Clarifies the types of financing mechanisms that can be used to make it more affordable for people to install solar on their homes and will make the state be more competitive in luring solar firms. One example is Maryland-based SunEdison, which relocated its corporate headquarters to the city of Belmont in San Mateo County. Another example is SolarCity in San Mateo which is expanding its operations in California.
 
AB 50 (Chapter 18, Statutes of 2011) – Exempt San Bruno Gas Explosion Victims from Taxes on Relief Payments (took effect earlier this year as an urgency measure). Exempts San Bruno residents from paying state taxes on recovery money they received from Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the Red Cross and the City of San Bruno after last year's pipeline explosion.
 
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Nate Solov
Office of Assemblymember Jerry Hill
916-319-2019
www.asm.ca.gov/hill


Pacifica Artist Scott Anthony

Most of you know me from the traditional jazz world, but many of you do not know about my other "career" as an artist. I recently joined ArtsyHome.com. an outlet for all kinds of home decor-related objects and artwork, and I just received word that I was the "Featured Artisan" recently at:

CLICK FOR DETAILS

I hope you will take a look my work on this site and also click on the links below to see other paintings and silkscreens that I have available directly.
 
"Sonoma Coast" 2011
Acrylic on canvas, 24" x 18"
Other acrylic and watercolor paintings available
CLICK FOR DETAILS
 
"Beach" 1985
Hand-printed silkscreen print, 36 colors
Other silkscreen prints available
CLICK FOR DETAILS

SCOTT ANTHONY, NWS


An Ad for a House That Doesn't Exist

BY SHELLGAME
 
The Christmas Eve 2011 edition of the San Jose Mercury-News featured a remarkable real estate ad for Pacifica:

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE AD

What's remarkable about this ad is that the home "for sale" does not exist. If it were an ad for an undeveloped lot, or other reference were made to its undeveloped state, that might be OK, but the inference is that this "dream home on an ocean side bluff" actually exists. No reference is made to its nonexistence.

From the ad in the Mercury-News: "HARMONY ESTATES: Imagine….A breathtaking 180 (degree) view of the Pacific Ocean… Described as 'Coastal Green Architecture' by designer Field Architecture of Palo Alto, home is 4300 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, on a 1.27 acre lot."

The ad goes on, spewing copy: "This dream home is in a unique development with 9 other homes not seen anywhere on the West Coast. The 10 homes in Harmony Estates run on a sunny ridge over-looking [sic[ the Pacific Ocean, with only a short walk to the beach."

The listed price for a totally imaginary home within a totally imaginary development is $3.495 million.

Imagine that.


Why Kids Can't Search

Why Kids Can’t Search
By Clive Thompson   November 1, 2011  |   Wired November 2011

We’re often told that young people tend to be the most tech-savvy among us. But just how savvy are they? A group of researchers led by College of Charleston business professor Bing Pan tried to find out. Specifically, Pan wanted to know how skillful young folks are at online search. His team gathered a group of college students and asked them to look up the answers to a handful of questions. Perhaps not surprisingly, the students generally relied on the web pages at the top of Google’s results list.

But Pan pulled a trick: He changed the order of the results for some students. More often than not, those kids went for the bait and also used the (falsely) top-ranked pages. Pan grimly concluded that students aren’t assessing information sources on their own merit—they’re putting too much trust in the machine.

Other studies have found the same thing: High school and college students may be “digital natives,” but they’re wretched at searching. In a recent experiment at Northwestern, when 102 undergraduates were asked to do some research online, none went to the trouble of checking the authors’ credentials. In 1955, we wondered why Johnny can’t read. Today the question is, why can’t Johnny search?

Who’s to blame? Not the students. If they’re naive at Googling, it’s because the ability to judge information is almost never taught in school. Under 2001’s No Child Left Behind Act, elementary and high schools focus on prepping their pupils for reading and math exams. And by the time kids get to college, professors assume they already have this skill. The buck stops nowhere. This situation is surpassingly ironic, because not only is intelligent search a key to everyday problem-solving, it also offers a golden opportunity to train kids in critical thinking.

Consider the efforts of Frances Harris, librarian at the magnet University Laboratory High School in Urbana, Illinois. (Librarians are our national leaders in this fight; they’re the main ones trying to teach search skills to kids today.) Harris educates eighth and ninth graders in how to format nuanced queries using Boolean logic and advanced settings. She steers them away from raw Google searches and has them use academic and news databases, too.

But, crucially, she also trains students to assess the credibility of what they find online. For example, she teaches them to analyze the tone of a web page to judge whether it was created by an academic, an advocacy group, or a hobbyist. Students quickly gain the ability to detect if a top-ranked page about Martin Luther King Jr. was actually posted by white supremacists.

“I see them start to get really paranoid,” Harris says. “The big thing in assessing search results is authorship—who put it there and why have they put it there?” Or, as pioneering librarian Buffy Hamilton at Creekview High School near Atlanta says, “This is learning how to learn.”

One can imagine even more entertaining ways to help kids grok the intricacies of the search world. Why not let students start a class blog on a subject and see how long it takes for it to show up in search results?

Mind you, mastering “crap detection 101,” as digital guru Howard Rheingold dubs it, isn’t easy. One prerequisite is that you already know a lot about the world. For instance, Harris found that students had difficulty distinguishing a left-wing parody of the World Trade Organization’s website from the real WTO site. Why? Because you need to understand why someone would want to parody it in the first place—knowledge the average eighth grader does not yet possess.

In other words, Google makes broad-based knowledge more important, not less. A good education is the true key to effective search. But until our kids have that, let’s make sure they don’t always take PageRank at its word.


White Wolf Sanctuary: Haven for Rescued Arctic Wolves

Lois and Wolf


Wolf

The howling is the first thing you notice at the end of the two-mile dirt road up to White Wolf Sanctuary, where 10 arctic wolves that roam these 55 fenced acres welcome visitors with an unearthly chorus. Director Lois Tulleners rescued these snow-white creatures from fur farms, failing zoos, and abusive or neglectful private owners, and brought them to this safe haven inside a national forest 10 miles from the central Oregon coast. Lois preps visitors with hot coffee and a brief show-and-tell, then leads a walking tour of the grounds. She goes inside the fence to bond with her favorite wolves (she has named them all), and they affectionately rub against her and lick her hands and face. She brings the friendliest ones right to the fence so visitors can touch their fur. Lois has a Facebook page and website but always needs volunteers and donations to help feed and care for the wolves (legally permitted roadkill and hunter-donated deer and elk meat are the wolves’ mainstay, but these are often in short supply). Lois particularly needs a webmaster (can work remotely) and a resident caretaker. Support Lois’ work on behalf of these magnificent wild creatures: 541-528-3588

CLICK FOR WHITE WOLF SANCTUARY


Make a Joyful Noise: Singing Is Good for Your Health

Singing can be joyful, especially around the holidays. It may also provide health benefits, some research suggests.
• Singing and asthma: Studies have found that singing helps people with asthma and bronchitis because of the deep breathing, and because a variety of muscles, such as the diaphragm, get a workout. There's even some evidence that singing lessons can help suppress snoring.
• Singing and the immune system: Researchers in Germany looked at antibodies (part of a healthy immune response) and stress hormones in members of an amateur choir, comparing levels when the singers were singing or just listening. Their stress hormones went up when they listened, and their antibodies went up when they sang, possibly because singing made the singers feel good and they didn't like just listening. Temporary changes in immunity mean very little, however. Many activities produce ups and downs in antibodies and stress hormones.
• Singing and aging: In a survey called "Creativity and Aging" from researchers at George Washington University, members of senior chorales in the District of Columbia, San Francisco, and Brooklyn reported better health and fewer falls than non-singers.
• Singing and Alzheimer's: A British branch of the Alzheimer's Society reports that singing is helpful for patients with dementia. Singing familiar songs and learning new ones can help build self-esteem and alleviate loneliness. Though there is no proof that engaging in such memory-dependent exercises as singing or learning new mental skills can prevent Alzheimer's, many experts think such activities may at least help delay the onset of memory problems in some people.
• Singing and human intelligence: Walter Freeman, a famous neurobiologist at University of California, Berkeley, believes that singing and dancing are genetic in origin, and that they helped the brain evolve. They have also served as a means of transmitting knowledge from one generation to another.
• Singing and sociability: According to Chorus America, an organization of singing groups, more people in the U.S. and Canada take part in choral singing than in any other performing art. And most singers say that singing in a chorus builds social confidence.

(UC Berkeley Wellness Letter)


Windjamming to China: Sailing Book @ Florey's

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Sailing is a proud tradition that goes back to antiquity, predating earliest recorded time. The stunning new memoir Windjamming to China evokes this tradition so it will never be forgotten. The book is set the first half of the 20th century, a time when almost all wind-driven vessels of the sailing age had already been discarded and replaced by steam and steel. It is about an American sailor, who speaks through the voice of author Gustav Tigaard. His story is told as a 15-year-old sailing the North Pacific in the 1930s, and about all the colorful characters he meets. The American sailor was born on the icy shores of Plymouth, was rocked upon the waves of the Atlantic, and cut his teeth on New England codfish. He built his muscles at the halyards of New Bedford whalers, and gained his sea legs atop the mizzen of Yankee Clippers. Windjamming to China sails on the fringes of history, propelling an unforgettable true story.
 
WINDJAMMING TO CHINA (ISBN: 978-1-60911-542-5) is available at Florey's Book Co. on Palmetto in Sharp Park.
 
About the Author: Gustav Tjgaard has always loved literature, having read Cervantes’ Don Quixote for the fourth time as a 10-year old. At age 85, he views the sailor as a legitimate folk hero. Originally from Decatur Island, Washington, he now lives in Pacifica, California, and has already written his next five books.