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Census 2010 Summary File Summary: There are fewer

28 Jul

I’ve been doing a lot of work lately with various Census products. Mostly recently, I’ve been trying to pull together some data to visualize trends in  the number of bike commuters in Oakland.  This data is readily available in Summary File 3 (SF-3)  for the 2000 Census, and you can also find it in the American Community Survey (ACS) files.

My understanding was that the ACS files were kind of a stop-gap measure: they provided more current information than the decennial census, but were lass accurate. I thought for accuracy’s sake, I should use the SF-3 file information from both 2000 and 2010, in addition to the ACS data. Since I couldn’t find the SF-3 data for 2010 on American FactFinder, I figured it must just not be released yet, so I waited.

Today I discovered it doesn’t matter how long I wait — there won’t be an SF-3:

So, although many data users were expecting the full suite of Census indicators they had in the 2000 Summary File 3, the Census has changed its delivery method and methodology, and it is now distributing many of those through the ACS. The good news is that the ACS is updated annually, instead of decennially, and so estimates for household income, poverty and the like will be refreshed every year.

via About Census 2010 Summary File 1 Data | PolicyMap.

Thanks to the bloggers at PolicyMap for clearing up this mystery for me! I’d never heard of PolicyMap before, but as of today I have an account. Check out the lovely maps you can build in a matter of minutes:

Powered by, an online mapping tool and data warehouse.

More Bus Rapid Transit for Oakland

21 Jul

Earlier this week Oakland City Council unanimously approved plans for a Bus Rapid Transit line along International Boulevard. The buses will have a dedicated center lane, so service can be faster and more dependable. Plus more crosswalks, bulb-outs and bike lanes — what’s not to love?

Assessing the economic viability of a potential BRT line on International was part of the larger Complete Streets internship project that got me involved with transportation planning about a year ago now, so this news is particularly exciting.

Thinking about “A Geography Lesson for the Tea Party”

3 Jul

The Washington Monthly – The Magazine – A Geography Lesson for the Tea Party.

A friend of mine sent me this article a while back, but I am just getting around to reading it now. I really enjoy the way the author makes America sound like some kind of high fantasy land created by the likes of George R. R. Martin with different cultural bulwarks and aristocratic mechanitions. Like with those fantasy books though, my somewhat shaky geographic sense leaves me flipping to the map in the map in the front a little too often.

I dislike, however, the author’s insistence on citing election results (particularly presidential ones) as evidence of an ideological schism. Ever since reading Fiorina’s Culture War, I have this little voice in the back of my head asking if it is really more valid to see that red/blue map as polarization of the populace rather than apathy or polarization of the elite.

Either way, I’d like to read the author’s book, even if I would enjoy it more as a work of fiction.


What’s that little fancy ‘s’ that shows up when you talk about laws?

22 Jun

I’ve been seeing little § marks crop up in the things I read for years now. It wasn’t until today that I learned it is called a “section sign,” and can be created with a simple Windows Alt code: [Alt] + [2] [1]. I don’t have to copy and paste from whatever I’m reading any more!

Here’s a neat little blog about the origins of various typographic marks, including the section sign:

Typographic Marks Unknown | Retinart.

Staying academically sharp over the summer (and the rest of your life)

4 Jun

It’s hard to believe that my formal educational career is over, or at least over for now. I have my Master’s degree. No longer will I have professors, syllabuses,  and reading lists carefully curated to keep me thinking big thoughts. For ow on, my education is a quite a bit more up to me.

Luckily, in a world that contains Khan Academy, open course material from all kinds of major universities, and  all the TED talks you can handle, staying academically engaged even outside the actual academy is easier than ever. My friend and colleague Lili is blogging over at GradGuru, and recently asked “What are you doing this summer?“. My main goal this summer is to start learning how to code with CodeAcademy. How about you?

Bad Hands and Stacked Decks: Barriers to Reentry and Collateral Consequences for Women of Color

23 Apr

My paper “Bad Hands and Stacked Decks: Barriers to Reentry and Collateral Consequences for Women of Color” was recently published in the Mills Academic Research Journal.

Available online here.

Intern Life: Lunch Routine

30 Jan

There is a lot of good advice out there about using your lunch hour to strategically improve your professional relationships, but the fact of the matter is that sometimes being an intern means that the interesting people are too busy eat with you. Besides, half the fun of starting a new job is learning the area around it. With those ideas in mind, I thought I’d share my personal eating-alone lunch routine.

Working at the City of Oakland has led me to spend a lot more time Downtown. Where before I only saw the late night fun side of the City Center, now I get to be part of the professional bustle, all business-ware and cell phones. Because there is such a daytime population around Frank Ogawa (or is it Oscar Grant?) Plaza, there’s no shortage of coffeeshops and lunch places from which to choose . Here’s my usual routine, guaranteed to lift the spirits, stay in budget, and be over before your coworkers know you’re gone.

Step 1: Coffee at Cafe Teatro   – $2 for a large drip coffee

Locally-owned Cafe Teatro is the kind of place you probably don’t notice if you don’t work downtown. Located off a side entrance to the Plaza, it’s hard to see from the street, and the hours are on an office worker’s schedule – closes and 4 pm, and nothing on weekends. But for that demographic, the Cafe is perfect – fast, friendly service; a floor plan that facilitates flow-through; and little tables if you’d rather hide out for a while. Their baked goods are also really excellent. Cafe Teatro was also recently written about on the blog  Living in the O, in their  “Rediscovering Downtown Oakland” series.

Step 2: Hot dog at Rebel Dog – $3 for a hot dog (tax included)

Rebel Dog (née Top Dog) is another gem that might easily go unnoticed. The store isn’t much more than a grill for the hot dogs and a place to stand while you watch them on the grill. And it doesn’t need anything else. The hot dogs are basically the best ever, and the toasted sesame buns are great. The service varies from “like it was in the good old days” to “greasy spoon waitress sass,” so it works best if you share their goal of getting your dog as quickly as possible and clearing the way for others to do the same. There’s a bevy of condiments and a good soda selection, too, if the dog’s not enough for you. Plus their location lets you move on to…

Step 3: Look at kittens at the SPCA – free!

Right around the corner from Rebel Dog is an East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Being an intern often means also being at a stage in your life where you can’t have pets. For those animal-lovers among us, that can be a downer. Luckily, the SPCA knows what you need: big windows tolook at kittens through. With hot dog in hand, watch some little cats bat at string, and you’ll be ready to go back to your desk in no time.

So next time you find yourself without an engaging lunch partner, take a stroll around your workplace and find your own fun!

Drawbacks of Bureaucracy: Whistleblowing and Penn State

23 Jan

Although Eric Silver’s article Why Child Sexual Abuse Goes Unreported: A Sociologist Explains has received the most attention for what it has to say about whistle-blowers, it also has some interesting insights on bureaucracy.

To sum up, bureaucracies are important to us because they break complex tasks into manageable pieces. The individual tasks are simpler and can be accomplished. Silver’s example is keeping grocery stores stocked, and other examples are easy to come by: the roads you drive on, schools you attend, most payroll processes. If a bureaucracy is working well, you won’t notice it working at all.

In an ideal bureaucracy, people follow procedure and don’t undertake tasks outside their original scope of work. Just as the bureaucracy breaks down tasks, so too the worker compartmentalizes, and is satisfied with not necessarily seeing something through from start to finish.

Unsurprisingly, this is not an ideal way to approach complex moral issues. Silver points out that there was probably some “reporting upward” — individuals doing their small, bureaucracy-sanctioned part to end the child sexual abuse that was going on. But those small “rights” didn’t add up to the institution “doing the right thing.” And so long as everyone acted within the strict confines of the bureaucracy, it never would have.

US-made tear gas in Egypt

27 Nov

I woke up to an email today reminding me that Egyptians are being killed by tear gas made in the US:

Tens have fallen dead only last week. Some of them were shot dead. But many others suffocated to death due to the use of that particular gas, that was not used during the 18 days of the first wave of the Egyptian Revolution in January and February. It’s a new lethal gas, the effects of which exacerbated by the fact that some of the canisters used had already expired.

One of the people dying from the gas was a 27-year old female doctor who was a volunteer at the field hospitals in Tahrir square. She was moving medical supplies between two of the field hospitals (the one hosted by a mosque and the other by a church) that are completely operated by volunteer doctors. Tear gas was shot at the clinic and she died due to suffocation and convulsions. This is how
brutal, inhumane and completely insane the use of this gas was.

Not only are the protesters attacked, but the security forces want to make sure that the injured cannot get help easily, if at all. Although the American empire might not be held responsible for the inhumane use of that gas, as if there is a humane alternative and if  only morality can trump capitalism and America can stop exporting their war-machine to the world, it is an American company that sold that particular tear gas to the Egyptian military perhaps also with American Aid money, how charitable!

I urge you as people with integrity to complain about that company in whatever capacity you can…all of you can cause
them a huge inconvenience when they get letters of complaint from American citizens, not us dogs and scum of the earth outside American borders.

I urge you to please, in the name of anything that matters, to take action and make your voice against this heard.

The kind of gas being talked about is CR gas which, among other horrific things, can “melt” your skin if it comes in contact with sweat, and causes severe pulmonary damage. Of the three or four kinds of gas canisters being used against Egyptian protesters, CR is the most dangerous. The reason doctors suspect it is CR gas being used now because protesters are suffering convulsions.

The company that produces these gas canisters is Combined Tactical Systems, Inc. of Jamestown, Pennsylvania. Unsurprisingly, they
have some pretty negative Yelp reviews. Their URL is Exactly what is more lethal than nerve gas is left to the visitor’s imagination.Luckily, CTS has included their contact information on every canister, so once your vision clears and you stop shaking, you can let them know what you think. You can reach them at:

388 Kinsman Rd

Jamestown, PA 16134

(724) 932-2177

Here’s a petition to sign, if you like other people to write your speeches.

And remember, Egypt isn’t the only place these gases are used and misused. Israel also uses CTS produces against protesters in Palestine. In fact, there’s been an Israeli flag flying above CTS headquarters. And again, it could well be that US aid money is being used to purchase CTS products. Your tax dollars at work!

You can also e-mail the CEO of Combined Systems Inc (CTS’ parent company) and the US State Department here.

Swords you can turn into ploughshares. Pepper spray — well, it’s not a food product, essentially, but I suppose you might need to fend off a bear someday. But nerve gas? Sometimes it just boggles the mind that humankind decided to invent nerve gas.

Oscar Grant Plaza

26 Oct

I’ve been reading about the #OccupyOakland protest and march last night. I was there, which makes it all the more interesting to see how it is being covered by the news. There’s a lot I want to say, but for now I just want to point out an interesting little tidbit in this article from

For those of you who don’t know, the plaza in front of Oakland’s City Hall is called Frank Ogawa Plaza. Frank Ogawa was an Oaklander who was the first Japanese-American to be elected to a City Council seat in a major US city. He greatly improved Oakland’s trade relations with Japan, and was the main force behind the sister-city relationship between Oakland and Fukuoka, Japan.*

He was not an unarmed African-American man killed by police. That was Oscar Grant. See, the first day Occupy Oakland moved in to Ogawa Plaza, the occupation began referring to Frank Ogawa Plaza as Oscar Grant Plaza instead.  It’s been interesting to see how well its caught on. At first, blogs and news sources didn’t mention the name Oscar Grant Plaza without mentioning Frank Ogawa Plaza as well. Then it was “Oscar Grant Plaza.” Now more and more media use the name Oscar Grant Plaza with explanation. Now it seems news sources from outside the Bay Area have accepted the new name, leading to the amusing confusion above.

It is really cool to see such a clear example of making change just by pretending the change has happened. Too time consuming, bureaucratic and difficult to change the name of a public space? Don’t have elected officials that value the same people you do? Systematically excluded from the power networks of dominant society? Well, sometimes you don’t need them, you just need other people like you.

One of my favorite lines of TV dialog is from Angel:

We live as though the world is as it should be, to show it what it can be.*

I live in a world where that plaza is named in memory of Oscar Grant.

Given that I work on the plaza, I’m thinking about reprinting my business cards.