Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chick-fil-A in Santa Rosa?

Santa Rosa's Planning Commission last month rejected Chick-fil-A's bid to build a restaurant in Santa Rosa near Santa Rosa High and SRJC.  The reason?  Several of the commissioners were opposed to the project because of the drive thru.  See the Press Democrat article here.  There were suggestions that this very same thing might happen a couple years ago when In-N-Out wanted to open a Santa Rosa restaurant with a drive thru, but the Planning Commission ended up voting unanimously to allow it--possibly because a lot of people came to the meeting in support of In-N-Out.

It is interesting to note that three commissioners voted against the project.  These are the three who were appointed by the three more liberal members of the City Council.  The three who voted in favor of the project were appointed by three of the more conservative members of the City Council.  The one commissioner who was absent from the meeting was also appointed by a more conservative councilmember.

I've never eaten at a Chick-fil-A (although my friend who works at one in Texas tells me it's good), but I think the City needs to allow this restaurant if only for the good jobs it will provide for the city residents.  A Burger King existed at this location not long ago, a McDonalds is just down the street, a Taco Bell is next to SRJC, and a new In-N-Out (which the  Planning Commission approved after many people showed up at a meeting to support it) is about a mile away. The Burger King had a drive thru, and the three other restaurants all have drive thrus.

The benefits that residents of Santa Rosa would get by having only two drive thrus rather than three on that stretch of Mendocino are minimal at best.  The costs of rejecting the project are great.  A number of people who could have gotten jobs at the new restaurant may remain unemployed and be unable to pay their bills.  Real people will suffer.  Chick-fil-A has appealed to the City Council and will be heard on the issue tonight.  The City Council should approve the project, if only for the benefit it will bring to people who need jobs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Employers asking for applicants' Facebook passwords

Like many newspapers, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, my local paper, regularly publishes informal polls on the homepage of its website.  The poll that's up today is the following:

Kind of an odd question, if you ask me.  At first, I thought that it might be a random off-the-wall question or perhaps a poorly phrased question written by someone who thinks you need a person's password to find that person on Facebook.  But after looking around, I found an article titled, "Employers ask job seekers for Facebook passwords."  The authors of this Associated Press article report that some employers actually ask applicants for their login info so that they can look at the applicants' private information.

A law professor quoted in the article expressed my own sentiments about this idea, saying that it is like asking for the keys to an applicant's house.  Although at least one of the employers mentioned in the article does not require that someone turn over his or her information, the first case mentioned in the article involves an applicant who withdrew his application because of the policy.

It is my position that requesting an applicant's login information, let alone requiring that an applicant turn it over, is inappropriate.  And this has nothing to do with whether or not there is damaging information in the applicant's account.  A password to an email or social networking account is a valuable tool.  And it is usually unwise and irresponsible to turn it over to anyone.  A request that someone turn over a password is a request that someone act irresponsibly.  You wouldn't give a potential employer a stamp with your signature in it, and you wouldn't give him the pin number for your debit card.  Giving a potential employer your Facebook password is almost as outrageous.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

BBC video on eating behavior

I found the below BBC video (posted on March 31, 2011) to be quite interesting. It discusses a study of eating patterns in children.
For some people, once they feel that they are full, that enthusiasm and interest in doing any more eating is just switched off. Whereas others, as long as the food that they're being offered is attractive and good-tasting, they're happy to carry on eating.
--Professor Jane Wardle

I generally tend fall into the second category.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Facebook and PR

A friend of mine (M.G.) posted a status on Facebook yesterday decrying a new photo viewing interface that Facebook is apparently rolling out.  I haven't seen the new interface yet, and neither have many others.  But we probably will within the next few days.

I think I'll take this opportunity to point out that Facebook could do a much better job on the public relations end of the business.  I joined Facebook in early 2008 (rather late), and from not long after that, Facebook's modifications have regularly led to loud outcries and dissatisfaction on the part of users.  One of the earliest such changes I remember was the streamlining of posts and the elimination of the "Wall" as an independent feature.  I--and presumably many others of the millions who protested--now understand Facebook's reasons for making that change and appreciate that the streamlined format is now used.  But it seems that with more skillful management of public relations, Facebook could have saved itself much of the bad rap that came from that and later changes.

Facebook will probably not have any major loss of users from poorly managed public relations.  As TechCrunch writer Michael Arrington said several weeks ago in a blog post on another Facebook-related topic, many people would be very hesitant to abandon the website:
Facebook is becoming the center of our Internet lives, more so each day. Dissatisfied users really don’t have a choice to leave Facebook any more. Giving up Facebook, for tens of millions of people at least, would be no more palatable than giving up their telephone. That means people can’t really vote with their feet any more.
Facebook might be able to attract much more goodwill on the part of users were it to work hard to persuade them of the need for changes instead of just springing the changes on them with little public announcement.  (And by "public announcement," I mean something more than a post on The Facebook Blog.)  Before Facebook introduced the "New Facebook" (the one you used to find at new.facebook.com), it did offer users a preview of the new interface before it eventually forced everyone to adopt it.  This was certainly a good procedure.  But perhaps some of the discontent could have been avoided had Facebook done more to persuade users.

As I am discussing Facebook here today, I should mention a problem I'm having with the site.  I am unable to join certain groups--at least two so far.  When I try to do so, I get the following "Group membership is restricted" message:
Someone who posted in Yahoo! Answers had the same problem more than two years ago was told by one person that he "may be suspended in violation of there [sic] terms and conditions and community guidelines."

Incidentally, both of these groups are public.  As the message does not include a procedure with which one can dispute the restriction, I do not have a solution to this problem.  If you have a solution or if you know someone who has an inside connection to Facebook (or, better yet, if you are Mark Zuckerberg) please let me know.

Happy Thursday!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Flaw in SRJC voting system repaired

Yesterday, in another blog post, "Major flaw in SRJC online voting system?," I pointed out a bug in Santa Rosa Junior College's student election system that permitted people such as me who are not enrolled in any classes to vote.  After posting the blog post and video here, I emailed the president of the Associated Students and the director and assistant director of Student Affairs.  They replied promptly, and had the problem fixed before 9:00 a.m.  Apparently, 83 votes that were made by non-students were cancelled, and the flaw that allowed us to vote was fixed.  Student Affairs Director Robert Ethington said that "Computing Services guarantees that the integrity of the process is intact."  Voting will close on Friday night.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Major flaw in SRJC online voting system?

UPDATE (Thursday, November 18, 2010):  The problem was resolved.  See my post here.

This week, Santa Rosa Junior College, my alma mater, is holding a student election to decide a student center fee referendum.  If passed, the referendum would require that most students be charged a $1 per unit student center fee up to a maximum of $10 per student per academic year.  The fee would be used for expenses related to student centers on the campuses, the new Bertolini Student Center, which opened earlier this year on the main campus, being the most notable such student center.

Elections have been online at SRJC from the time of the main student elections this past spring.  On Monday, the first day of this week's election, I logged into the myCubby student portal (named after the school's mascot, the Bear Cub) online and found that it appeared that the system would allow me to vote even though I am no longer a student at SRJC.  Last night, I installed a video screen capture program on my computer and attempted to go through with the process.  It appears that I was indeed permitted by the system to vote in the election.  As you will see in the video below, I was even shown a "Thank you for voting" dialog box.  It is to be hoped that my vote and any votes like it will not actually be counted.  The voting software should filter out the votes of people who are not registered in any classes; or, better yet, it should not even give the appearance that it is allowing these people to vote.

If adequate software safeguards such as those I have described above are not in place, it is possible that the validity of this week's election will be called into question. It is very possible, however, that the computers are indeed set so that only votes from enrolled students are counted. But there is no way to tell by looking at the website.

I was Vice President of Santa Rosa Campus on the Associated Students Senate from November 2009 until I graduated in May 2010.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Unintended consequences

About two weeks ago, when I was at a Safeway here in Berkeley, I saw large signs in the parking lot advertising Mott's apple sauce.  The signs did influence me to buy apple sauce.  But, because of the price or the type that was offered, I bought Tree Top brand.  Nice try, Mott's.  I'm sure Tree Top appreciates the free advertising.  Maybe next time, if you actually offer a better deal in addition to your parking lot ads, I'll actually by your brand.

Incidentally, I don't like apple sauce that says "sweetened."  It has a weird taste.