Monday, July 23, 2012

Girls In Tech Los Angeles

I'm sure I've told a few of you but I've recently taken a position as the Mentorship Director at the Girls in Tech Los Angeles organization.  Obviously a volunteer job to occupy me in my ample spare time, but sarcasm aside, mentoring women is something I'm passionate about.  There were no role models for me growing up as a female tech geek in the middle of Canada.  Certainly no female techies of any sort let alone a CEO or CIO of a tech company.  Role models abound nowadays and I want to help women get ahead and get connected in these male dominated technical fields.

To that end for the last week I've spent time connecting women to girls in a number of different ways and I'm pretty stoked about it.  Most of these opportunities have come from our relationship with the Girl Scouts of Los Angeles and we're thankful for their referrals.  I've managed to find two mentors for two girls going for their GS Gold Award.  This is the highest award in Girl Scouts and only 5.4% of girls trying to attain the goal, do.  The mentors are two female rocket scientists from the JPL Mars Rover teams and will be working with the girls on robotics.  I'm also working with a female video game developer to help the Girl Scouts of Los Angeles finish developing their video gaming badge.  And you thought that Girls Scouts was just cookies.  No more - they don't earn badges in cooking, baking and camping, they earn badges in financial planning, robotics, recycling, and the list goes on and on.

My next project is seeing if getting on the GS Gold Award committee would help them in any way and would possibly also be a great way to continue to connect engineers with girls needing mentors.  

Stay tuned for what we have planned next as the train has begun to roll out of the station and is picking up steam!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Patience Constantly Proves The Adage

Once again events prove that patience is truly a virtue.  I cannot believe how much patience I've developed over the years.  I've been waiting since mid April for my new work vehicle - a Ford 2013 Escape - Kodiak Brown with what I think is the Eco Boost/Titanium package.  It's coming directly from the factory.  Of course, when you order something like this through your fleet manager you never really know exactly what you're going to get until you get it.

Today's news however made me thankful that I do not have it yet.  This link has the story of the fires in the Escapes due to the fuel line cracking.  That's pretty serious stuff.  It's so serious that Ford is telling their owners NOT to drive it and to call the dealer who will come out with a flat bed, take it away and give you a loaner.  Here's a shot of my new vehicle....someday soon. Pretty color eh?

Here is the funnest (is that a word?) feature of the vehicle - Intelligent Assist lift gate - . just kick your foot under the bumper and the power liftgate will automatically open, providing easy access to the cargo area. And both this liftgate and the available power liftgate allow you to adjust the liftgate height, which is helpful for lower overhangs.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

STEM, Girl Scouts and Girls in Tech LA

Saturday was a big day for me.  I was at Rio Hondo college @ 9am with the rest of the volunteers from Girls in Tech Los Angeles ready to start my day by teaching some girls about electrical engineering that mostly included hands on lab type work.  I was a little apprehensive as I had not practiced any sort of speech/lecture material, I was going to wing it.  After all, I can build a simple circuit in my sleep.

It was a good day.  It was so unexpected to see girl's faces light up when they made a circuit and they got pretty stoked buzzing it for our game show.  My favorite comment of the day?  "I thought this was going to be boring, but it's really fun!"  It turns out that the majority of the attendees were brand new girl scouts and this was their first event.  They received a three month free membership and could pay the $12 a year after that to join.

We were written about in the Whittier Daily news, yes, small little local rag but hey, any publicity is good publicity, isn't that what celebrities say? The San Gabriel tribune also picked up the story.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Geppetto and Agility Training

Geppetto and I are signed up for Agility class.  Here is a picture of him traversing the teeter totter.  I think this is the second hardest trick for a dog to do.  They are not comfortable on unstable ground.  The hardest seems to be the weave poles where dogs weave in and out.  Agility class probably teaches the humans about 75% and dogs about 25%.  It is about human positioning, body language and confidence.  Your dog takes those cues off of you.   I'm hoping that we can enter the Beginning Novice competition on August 4th at WLAOTC

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Affordable Health Care Act - aka ObamaCare Part 2

This is Part 2 of my personal discovery of what all the hoopla is over ObamaCare.  If you haven't read part 1 - please do so - scroll down to the next(aka previous) blog post.  The first 5 points below are 2011 changes.

  1. Medicare-covered preventative services were exempted from deductibles and the co-pay was eliminated.  - OK, this seems good
  2. Insurance companies must prove they spent at least 80% of the premium payments on medical services, rather than on things like advertising and executive salaries. Those that didn't were required to provide rebates to policyholders.  -- Hahahahaha - I bet those insurance companies hated this one!
  3. Provided grants to states so they could require health insurance companies to submit justification for all rate hikes. - ok, whatever - I suppose you have to police them since they are liars anyways
  4. Additional funding to increase the number of doctors and nurses, and more community health centers -- enough to double the number of patients they can treat in the next five years. -- ok, well, we have an aging population that is living longer - this seems like a good thing.
  5. The Senate must still approve higher taxes to pay for the additional benefits. Specifically, the 1 million people who make more than $200,000 and the 4 million couples filing jointly who make more than $250,000 would pay 3.8% Medicare taxes on dividends, capital gains, rent and royalties and 2.35% (up from 1.45%) Medicare taxes on income.  <-- ok, well think of this - there is currently a 15% tax on capital gains.  Most capital gains taxes are paid by really rich people who don't really make a traditional salary but get 99% of their money from investments.  This is how rich people get away with paying less taxes than your average middle/lower class American.  Regular people pay around 28% or higher.  So, I have no problem with increasing the tax in this manner. 
  6. 2012 changes - this is where it seems to get complicated.
  7. Health care exchanges - apparently all states must set up some sort of health care exchange - kind of like a state run health insurance program, which is weird because isn't that what Medical is (in California)?  So I think this is a federally subsidized stop gap insurance for people who don't qualify for MediCal (poor people) and people who don't work for companies that offer insurance.  It seems like the payments to providers will be lower (so that makes doctors very unhappy) and the coverage won't be as stellar as that provided by a big employer.  
  8. Fines for people and companies not buying health insurance.  This is a weird one - so if you make ~ $30,000 or less a year (and I'm ballparking here) then you can buy health insurance through these state health care exchanges.  If you don't, the government will send you a bill for $325 as a fine.  I don't know about this.  Wouldn't it be better to just say that if you don't buy insurance then don't go running to the emergency room cause we're going to kick your ass out without treatment?
Basically - the American health care system is set up so that your quality and level of care is directly dependent upon how much money is in your bank account.  The ObamaCare Act tries to remedy that.  Does it do that?  Well, that remains to be seen, probably not but I suppose its a step in a direction and better than nothing.  Can anyone really fix the American health care system anyways?  Doubtful.  It's a big machine moving along, unstoppable, especially by a democratic government that is more worried about entitlements for themselves, re-election, speaking engagements and their bank accounts rather than the people they are supposed to represent.  

Monday, July 02, 2012

Affordable Health Care Act - aka ObamaCare Part 1

Since I'm an American now and the SCOTUS (Supreme court of the US) upheld the constitutionality of this act I figured I should understand it.  In the past year I've listened to nothing but outrage and dissent about it and how it was going to bankrupt America and basically fuck the whole system up. I thought the latter part of that sentence was amusing since the American health care system is generally f'ed up anyways....  I had also heard that as an employed American working for a midsize company with health care as a benefit this Act would not affect me at all.

So what are the actual facts?  Not the Fox News "facts", not the 7 second Republican sound bite "facts" - the actual, for real facts....

In my research I've discovered this:

  1. Its called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 - ObamaCare was coined as a way to demonize it.
  2. In 2010 as part of the Act - small businesses received tax credits to cover up to 35% of their total employee premium payments. This increases to 50% in 2014 <-- this seems good - health coverage expenses for small businesses is brutal often resulting in those workers not getting any coverage - then going to emergency room for every single thing.
  3. 2010 - Children were allowed to stay on their parents' health insurance until they turn 26 - since unemployment is so high especially of recent graduates, this seems like a good idea.
  4. 2010 -Insurance companies were prohibited from dropping coverage if someone got really sick. They couldn't create lifetime coverage limits. They could no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. The same will apply to adults in 2014. Until then, adults with pre-existing conditions who have been denied coverage will get access to temporary health insurance coverage until the exchanges are set up.  <-- this seems logical.  It was a terrible thing for some big profit insurance company to drop you because you got sick, terrible and very common.
  5. New private plans were required to cover preventive services with no co-payments, and they are exempt from deductibles.   Consumers who applied to new plans have access to an external appeals process if coverage is denied.  - I noticed that we got this benefit on my insurance at work last year.  I didn't realize why, I thought the insurance company was being nice but really, they were required.  Imagine going for a check up and not paying anything!  If you catch a problem early the costs to solve it and the morality rates are way better.  Hmmm another logical point.

    Ok, wow, there are so many things - tomorrow I'll cover the changes in 2011 that took effect.  To me - so far these are not bad things.  I can't really see anything horrible thus far.  You might say, well, how are we supposed to pay for all this?  Well - if you fix people in a doctors office rather then an emergency room, its cheaper.  If you cure someone of stage 1 cancer its cheaper than curing them of stage 3 cancer - called early detection.