Did the California DMV get hacked?

I don’t understand why the California DMV OTP challenge page to confirm my “identity” is in Chinese. Did they do some sort of upgrade and failed to keep the OTP challenge in English? Or… Did they get hacked? When a US or state goverment system goes to some foreign language page… it doesn’t really boost the confidence in that web page.

The DMV page also made it difficult. I could not contact a service representitave nor a technical representative to ask about the validity of this OTP challenge in real time. The chat bots are UTTERLY useless. I ended up having to ping them on Facebook and Twitter… but of course… tech service isn’t available their either.

The Ocean Cleanup

Readers of this blog may have heard of this “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” It’s actually two regions in the Pacific Ocean where the ocean currents are collect and “round up” so to speak the various floating plastics and other man-made debris gets washed off, tossed off, drained away, and generally discarded on land and somehow makes their way into the ocean and ocean currents.

ALmost 10 years ago, I heard a Ted Talk of a young environmentalist seeking to change and clean up the oceans. From time to time in the past 10 years, I heard about his successes and failures in the news but much of that news was drowned out by COVID19. Late last year, I read an article that demonstrated the successes of one of his systems. After many years of not seeing/reading updates, I read through and watched quite a few of the Ocean Cleanup YouTube videos. It turns out the Ocean Cleanup has been busy not only developing more efficient systems to clean up the garbage but also on ways to recycle and reuse the recovered plastic into more interesting things. One of these reuses is to make sunglasses and sunglass container.

This effort to clean up the garbage is admirable. To support this project, I paid and recieved these $199 sunglasses. Are they expensive? Yes… but instead of thinking how expensive it is… I’d like to frame it as paying to clean up the plastics in the ocean while also paying to fund alternative methods to resuse the plastics collected. These sunglasses show that the technology exists to reuse discarded plastics. The biggest issue now is to be able to scale up the process enough so that this Ocean Cleanup is self-sustaining to support itself. I bet the founders would love to tell people that they have recycled/reused all the plastics in the world and there is no longer any more plastics to recycle and reuse.

One man’s trash is another man’s $199 treasure….

Overdraft Fees

I recently heard The Indicator from Planet Money’s Overdraft Fees podcast episode. Two statistics immediately jumped out at me.
1) Banks made $15.5 BILLION dollars on the fees in 2019 (CFPB Link).
2) Less than 10% of the banking population generated approximately 80% of the fees.

HOLY CRAP… #2 surprises me the most yet at the same time doesn’t really surprise me at all. Given the income wealth inequality… many people on the lower end of the income distribution are literally cash strapped and living paycheck to paycheck. I’ve heard instances when banks charge a set fee for every transaction that’s overdrawn. That’s fucking ridiculous. Why doesn’t the consumer opt out of this predatory behaviour? Apparently the consumer was under the impression that they HAD to sign up for overdraft fees without realizing that they can opt out. EGADS!!!

I will say that early in my career, I also got hit with overdraft fees. I learned two valuable lessons at that time. First, the ACH transfer delay is a fucking joke since the ACH transfers now could be same day if the banks wanted it so. Also, why use ACH when payments can be electronically delivered immediately through other applications like the bank supported Zelle, Venmo, and Paypal? Second, pending transactions by the bank doesn’t work in your favor and acts as if money is not there. I got hit a few times mainly because I didn’t plan ahead to transfer the money I needed.

I wonder though… if this issue masks a much larger issue of the lack of financial literacy in the US population.

OKLO Aurora Nuclear Reactor

I saw this video on YouTube about a new kind of nuclear reactor called Oklo’s Aurora (wiki). To be fair, I have heard of companies pursuing the niche space of making “clean/safe mini-nuclear reactors” in order to generate eletricity for 1000-10000 households. I even read that Bill Gates is also working towards a small reactor (link 1, link 2)!!

Listening to her talk about the technology and reading (link 1, link 2, link 3) a little more about it… this is much smaller than what Bill Gates is working towards. What is awesome about the reactors is the intent to use “spent nuclear fuel” to power the reactor and generate even more energy from the spent fuel. You’re literally using waste no one wants to touch in order to generate power shaving off the half-life of the fuel from potentially millions of years to something at least manageable. What I find also interesting are the concerns related to theft of spent fuel. I do suppose consequences are severe if the radioactive fuel was stolen and/or misused for evil deeds.

Vox on Taiwan’s early COVID-19 response

So… basically, a Taiwanese (TW) government agency empowered to utilize resources across multiple agencies and integrate information into a clear coherent public strategy. This government agency shifted from a risk-by-country assessment for travelers to a general mandatory quarantine of any entering individuals. In retrospect, any traveler entering Taiwan gave up their personal privacy and freedoms for 14 days. They were quarantined in a hotel room and monitored by phone daily. Furthermore, a nationalized and digitized healthcare system also helped these agencies monitor individuals including anyone who had to interact with the quarantined travelers.

This video also didn’t recognize the government’s power to implement such a tracking system. Not only that, the video glossed over the fact that citizens also knew the risks and outcomes of a deadly virus outbreak. These two details allowed the government to set strict policies that were generally followed by the population. Even now as TW is going controlling their most recent outbreak in May, most citizens that are able to stay at home have done so with relatively little opposition.

Contrast that to just asking citizens of a certain country to stay at home and wear a mask when going outside, the conversation immediately becomes an “individual rights” issue and violation of their rights despite the fact that:
1) people are getting sick and dying.
2) healthcare is being pushed to the limit.
3) it’s the single most effective means to limit transmission and infection.

When did this “me first” attitude creep into society? And where does the balance between public safety/public health concerns outweigh the individual rights?

Yet another hate crime.

The recent racist killings of Asian Americans by “not a racist” white male suffering from a sex addiction and a “bad day” has been in the making it’s way around the interwebs and news media. Of course, the white male suspect has been captured without any further incident.

Can you imagine if he were black, latino, or asian? Wait… Did you think that too?

Wait… Why did you think that? Hmm… but I digress….

*****

Here’s a fun fact… Columbine HS shooting/massacre happened 21 years, 11 months ago. This guy is 21 years old. He probably wasn’t even born yet when Columbine happened.

Here’s another fun fact… Apparently, this guy bought his gun the SAME DAY he killed the Asian Americans. How the FUCK does that even happen?

Here’s another fun fact, since 1982, whites have dominated the mass shooter market (another data set) making up the majority of the incidents relative to other racial/ethnic groups. I think it’s actually white males but the data set doesn’t seem to make this distiniction.

Here’s a final fun fact. HE WAS KICKED OUT OF THE HOUSE BY HIS OWN PARENTS. As much as his parents and the church community attempted to help him with his “sex addiction,” the moment the parents kicked him out of the house, they should bear some of the responsibility of his actions. Do we know if his parents called for help when they kicked him out? Did they advise him to go to his church group for help? What we do know is that he ended up with a firm belief he had to “eliminate temptations.”

*****

On Friday, an employee resource group where I work held an impromptu session to listen and discuss the events of Atlanta specifically but also as a broader forum with other people and experiences. The discussions got me thinking too much and is now prompting this post that’ll probably be written over the course of a few days. There is one question that people always ask… how can I help? As much as I appreciate this question, I think as a society, we have to reframe this question two ways…

  1. How can society change?
  2. What can society change?

Apart from the typical “create an open dialog” mantra that you hear from everyone, that’s clearly not enough. Ever since the LA riots in 1992, the dialog has been open but it’s not enough. Fast forward 30 years from the LA riots, the Black Lives Matter marches from 2020 shows us that there has been progress but why is there still violence against minorities? We ask all sorts of questions yet change comes slowly. But society has shown it can adapt from the rotary phones to a hand held computer/phone/camera/video camera in just 40 years. What does that mean? IT SHOWS SOCIETY IS CAPABLE OF EMBRACING CHANGE.

So how can society change? Unfortunately in the past 20+ years, I’ve come to realize (as many people should) the government is ultimately the only place where societal change can be implemented. Slavery? Gone with the Emancipation Proclamation, a Presidential executive order followed quickly by the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. Women can vote (again) via the 19th Amendment. But have you noticed that every time the change has always resulted in issues. Jim Crow Laws, poll taxes and literacy tests come to mind. This makes me wonder…. why does the government HAVE TO EXPLICITLY GRANT these freedoms? I don’t know but I think society fears the unknown and the unfamiliar and thus have a tendency to push back against this.

So back to my original question… how can society change? I believe there needs to be a concerted effort to CHANGE the dialog of the selfish “You’re infringing on MY rights” and to CHANGE the government at all levels. With the “infringing on my rights” dialog, I’ve always admired at how crazy and self-centered certain segments of the US population are when it comes to rights and freedoms. Let’s take healthcare… certain people were rabidly opposed to having to pay for health insurance and also opposed to paying the tax penalty for NOT having insurance. It was “my right” to not pay for health insurance. What about the all the rights of the others who paid insurance? If you went and used services like ER/urgent care, where do you think the majority of those expenses get passed to? Your lack of insurance passed the costs down to the insured. With more than 60% of bankruptcies caused by medical issues/bills/expenses, you’re “right to no insurance” now infringed on all the rights of the insured. Why should the insured have to pay for such stupidity? So what is the proposed change? I think a very simple change might be to start thinking about how our actions will affect other individuals and then adjust accordingly. As a society, we might not get it right all the time but if everyone is trying to think of others then at least we’ll get some great change out of it.

Now… how do we change government? Society holds power over politicians in at least two simple ways. The first is to vote. Society should vote against politicians that do not support the values that lead to a “positive society.” What is a “positive society?” A simple answer would be a society that embraces the mantra of the “golden rule” aka “treat others as you would like to be treated.” The second way is to control where the money flows to. Politicians require money for their campaigns and to stay in office. And since politicians require money, society should control where the money flows. We should only support politicians that values a positive society. In addition, corporations (since they are people too) also have the power to affect government. The workers should also encourage their companies to only support politicians that value a positive society. Simple yet very complicated. I think if society can embrace or even strive to follow the golden rule, only positive outcomes will be expected.

So what can society change? First, what are common themes everyone can agree on? I can actually think of a few items…

  1. Healthcare reform. In US, the amount of care relative the amount spent for the care is considered horrible. Studies have shown that medical inequality is a significant issue for low income families potentially even bankrupting them. Providing a basic level of healthcare that consist of yearly medical, dental and vision visits, routine bloodwork (metabolic panel, lipid panel, CBC), STD checks, and other basic female/male tests should be mandated. Additional services would be provided through insurance and the private market.
  2. Tax reform for individuals and corporations. Currently, there is a growing divide between the top richest and the poorest. The growing disparity should be a concern especially since the the bottom incomes are slowly being pushed into perpetual poverty with minimal paths to middle income. What’s even more concerning is that the poorest are forever saddled with unfavorable situations that continually keep them in the same poor economic situation. Would universal basic income for the poorest help? What percentage of taxpayers are actually living below the poverty line? I think there is some equitable way to allow people to keep getting rich from their businesses while at the same time provide help to the poorest to live with some sort of dignity.
  3. Education reform. The idea of “free 4 year tuition” is nice but I actually don’t think that is feasible. I think what’s most important is tuition and loan borrow reforms. The tuition has gradually increased over many years. One study implicates the free “unlimited” lending power of the government to provide loans for students to attend college (source data, second source). The government should offer a capped loan amount to the students. This would restrict the “supply” of money forcing students and colleges to reevaluate where to spend the capped amount.
  4. Political reform. Let’s get rid of lobbyists from even being able to interact with politicians. Else, there should be a system where lobbyists must register who they will talk to during the day. If found to have conversed, the politician should be immediately removed from office and the vote transferred to the politician’s party. Coupled with the ability to direct money, this reform has the most potential of creating political operatives who will work towards a positive society.
  5. Gun Reform. NO ONE SHOULD BE ABLE TO PURCHASE and KEEP A NEW GUN on the same day!!! This does not limit the 2nd amendment rights of “bearing arms”… it is a matter of accountability, background check which leads to a safer society.