Saturday, July 04, 2009

What Makes the United States Great...

On this 4th of July, here are the strengths that made and make the United States a great nation:

1) Unalienable Rights: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."
2) Work ethic
3) Diversity
4) Oceans that protect/buffer us
5) Good supply of natural resources
6) Free public libraries
7) Free and good public education system
8) Visionary Constitution & Bill of Rights
9) Strong belief in the rule of law
10) Religious freedom
11) Free speech
12) Belief in American ideals -- Truth, Justice, and the American Way
13) Free market economy balanced by some government controls
14) Good network of roads
15) Building codes
16) Spirit of adventure and entrepreneurship
17) Good water & sewer systems
18) Pervasive belief in the rule of law
19) Democratic gov't with checks & balances between legislative, executive, and judicial branches
20) Welfare, Social Security, Unemployment Benefits
21) Willingness to question, change, and adapt
22) Reliable mail delivery
23) Willingness to negotiate and compromise
24) Justice: Our legal system
25) The belief a man can make his own destiny
26) Parks

Here are some things we still need to work on:
1) Healthcare system
2) Reducing our environmental footprint

And here are some things that have hurt us in the past and that we must work to avoid:
1) Hubris
2) Being too prudish / puritanical / extreme
3) Compromising our American ideals for short term expediency
4) Laziness
5) Greed
6) Carelessness
7) Indifference
8) Hypocrisy

One of the US's greatest accomplishments is to see that more nations also achieve our strengths. By helping our neighbors worldwide, we help ourselves.

Tim Oey

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Health Care -- Make it Naturally Sustainable

Here is my simple perspective on health care reform in the US: establish a health care system that has simple natural incentives to keep people healthy.

The current US health care system is too expensive, is not able to cover everyone, and has many inefficiencies. The US spends more per capita on health care than any other UN nation ( yet does not achieve the quality of care available in many other countries (

We all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure but that is not how most of the health care systems in the US work.

Our current systems either have lots of government regulation to tell the system how to run and what to do (lots of rules, slow to adapt) or have big bucks insurance companies competing against big bucks medical companies. In the government controlled case, the operative goal is to follow laws and legislation. In the insurance industry vs medical industry case the operative goal is to maximize profits on one side or the other. Neither system has natural incentives and tight feedback loops to keep people healthy. And most of the money is spent at the end of the health cycle when expensive health care is required. It is not spent to keep people healthier up front.

At a recent gathering at Harvard, a health care professional and fellow classmate pointed out that traditional health care is responsible for only about 10% of a person's overall health. Yet that is where most money is spent. Another 10% is attributable to the environment. 40% depends on a person's eating, exercise, and life style habits. The remaining 40% is dependent on a person's socioeconomic status. Spending money on improving healthy habits and educating people has an enormously bigger and more effective impact on improving health while consuming fewer resources (money, etc).

Another of my classmates noted, and I agree, that it is critical for any new health care system to have direct incentives to keep people healthy -- rather than incentives to deny them care (current insurance) or incentives to give them expensive treatments with high profit margins (many medical/drug companies). One of the best current day examples of the way things should work is Kaiser Permanente and some other Health Maintenance Organizations. Kaiser has extensive programs to keep people healthy -- and Kaiser makes more money the healthier it keeps its clients. Kaiser's doctors and staff are reasonably paid without necessarily needing to have patients undergo expensive therapies. It is far cheaper to have them participate in wellness programs. Patients can also reduce their own costs by staying healthy. And both Kaiser and their patients have thorough health data to track what works best.

We need a health care system that naturally balances patient goals (good health), medical provider goals (income), and resource conversation (keeping costs down). Systems like Kaiser are succeeding at this. We need health care plans available to all in the US that can have a similar and sustainable balance.

It is my hope that the Obama administration's efforts will result in such sustainable systems with effective and natural checks and balances but with little or no government intervention required (small government). There are certainly a number of other implementation details to work out -- like how to fund health plans for those who cannot otherwise afford them -- but hopefully we will end up with a plan that achieves a natural balance and is sustainable.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Zero tolerance, zero compassion, bad lessons

(Sent to Ken Schlaff, Principal Milpitas High School, June 12, 2009)

Dear Mr Ken Schlaff,

I am yet again disappointed by our educational system, your school, and your role model as a principal. This system insists on sticking to nitpicking "rules" and misses the bigger and more important lessons to be taught and learned.

The case of Shontale Taylor and Milpitas High School is a supremely teachable moment that you are currently mishandling, and badly.

From the Mercury News and hundreds of students, it is evident that Shontale Taylor is being punished because she did the right thing:

Many times I've seen schools anchor themselves in minutia, hidebound by their "rules", and miss teaching relevance, prioritization, compassion, humanity, and that bigger rights are much more important than trivial wrongs.

Not so in school, instead we teach that sticking to the trivial is right and sticking your neck out to do a bigger good is wrong.

Case in point with an incident during FEMA's response to hurricane Katrina: A team of doctors from Doctor's Without Borders showed up on a tarmac to help a group of people who were dying or injured. A FEMA official blocked them saying they were not FEMA certified doctors so could not help the people who were hurt. (Story from one of my Harvard colleagues from Louisiana).

Our school system continues to teach the same lesson in the case of Shontale Taylor -- better to follow the microrule and let people be hurt then to do the right thing.

Zero tolerance and following every "rule" precisely is not what our school systems should be teaching. It is not the way the world works nor how it should work. There is a much bigger picture here -- it is about doing the bigger right thing -- like being bold enough to break up a fight and make a positive difference -- like working extremely hard to overcome hardship. Those are the qualities that we should reward and not punish. Instead nitpicking small minded bureaucrats yet again focus on the minor and miss the major. I am disappointed but not surprised. Our school systems continue to perpetuate small mindedness instead of focusing on fully educating our students.

Is there anyone who can stop this madness?

I've posted this on my blog at and my other social networks such as Facebook.

Tim Oey
Sunnyvale, CA

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Stevens Creek Trail Inches Forward

The Stevens Creek Trail is inching its way from the San Francisco Bay toward Stevens Creek Reservoir.

On Tuesday April 28, the Sunnyvale City Council removed a ban in the Sunnyvale General Plan that specifically prohibited the Stevens Creek Trail from any creekside alignment within Sunnyvale City limits (the former section 2.2.C.5). While much of the creek that is in Sunnyvale is very unsuited for such a trail, there are some short sections that are quite reasonable. Removing the ban was necessary because it was out of character with what should be in a general plan and it tied Sunnyvale's hands so that it could not participate in some important regional planning efforts.

Currently there is a four city task force (Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, and Cupertino) that is reviewing trail options and coming up with plans on how best to proceed.

For an unofficial map of the current trail along with some speculative possibilities for future routes, please see a map I've drawn in Google Maps.

Please note that while I've tried to make this map as accurate and realistic as possible, this map is speculative and may have numerous errors. It is primarily for discussion and educational purposes. I am currently just a private Sunnyvale citizen and not officially part of any planning efforts.


Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Amazing Mary Ave Bike/Ped Bridge!

The new Sunnyvale-Cupertino bicycle-pedestrian bridge at Mary Avenue is wonderful and beautiful night and day. This is one amazing bridge!

However there are at least 3 issues that need correction to let this masterpiece achieve perfection:

1) The bollards at each end of the bridge are a bit hazardous to bicyclists.
2) The main approach paths to the bridge are a bit narrow leading to more conflict than necessary between bicyclists and pedestrians.
3) The Sunnyvale intersection at Mary and Homestead has a problem because there is no safe and natural way for bicyclists traveling north bound onto Mary to get across this intersection.

#1 & #2 could be solved simply by making the approach paths wider:
The extra width would allow both bicyclists and wheelchair users to go to the right of each bollard in their direction without catching a wheel on the edge of the path in the dirt.

As for #3, the Mary and Homestead intersection in Sunnyvale, I think the easiest solution is to open the gate to allow northbound cyclists to pass through the Homestead High School parking lot and into the right lane heading north on Mary.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Let the punishment fit the crime

The Iraqi who threw his shoes at President Bush was sentenced today to 3 years in jail. While throwing your shoes at someone is rude, I do not think the punishment fits the crime in this case. Islamic nations seem to have some very harsh punishments. Thankfully the US Constitution has many protections such as the 8th Amendment that says "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

If someone threw their shoe at someone in the US, I wonder what the likely punishment would be?

For more info see:

Monday, February 02, 2009

A Better Solution Needed for Diabetic Students in California

A California state judge's ruling on the California Nurse Practice Act determined that only nurses can administer insulin to students in California. I think this act needs to be amended because that does not make practical sense. We do not need professionals to do every slightly dangerous thing for us. Driving a car is far more dangerous yet are we going to require everyone to have a professional chauffeur? Millions of regular people can can administer insulin safely. All that is really needed is to offer some simple training to those who administer insulin. Requiring a nurse for this is overkill.

Evernote -- Interesting

Evernote is Vannevar Bush's memex in the palm of your hand. Your brain on the net. Could be scary though if you ever have to go through legal discovery. :-/

The President Can Now Do Email!

Obama retains a "Blackberry" (hurray!) and the US Presidency enters the 21st century by now doing email himself. An interesting side effect is that the latest ultimate power status symbol is whether or not you have Obama's email address.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Practical President

As demonstrated by his inaugural address, Obama is a practical President. He knew he had to get right down to business and so delivered an inaugural address that got right down to business. In it he gave an overview of his perspective and his top priorities. He again demonstrated a true and steady hand on the tiller, as he did during his campaign, and in his book "The Audacity of Hope."

And in his first full day in office he delivered.

Obama ordered the Guantanamo detention center to close. We all knew it was wrong and finally we have an honest leader who knows this as well. We must honor our own laws and procedures. To do otherwise was hypocritical and reduced our standing in the eyes of the world. In his inaugural address he said:

"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake."

Obama also froze the pay of White House staffers (just as a number of commercial companies have), he worked on his economic plan, he called Middle East leaders to get the ball rolling, he put in place an ethics order so that people in government cannot abuse their former connections and power as lobbyists, and he dug in to dealing with our economic crisis with an approach that looks like it will be much more effective at dealing with it than the prior TARP bailout that went awry.

Hallelujah for a President who builds a great team around him works methodically, is ethical, and thinks rationally. Our world now has a much better chance for peace and prosperity with Obama leading the US. Yet as he referenced in his inaugural address, it is going to be a hard climb out of the deep hole that we've dug for ourselves in the past 8 or more years.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Miraculous Moment in History

It was with pride and joy that I watched Barack Obama become the 44th President of the United States today (well yesterday now that it is 1 AM on 1/21/2009).

His inaugural address was right on the mark and positions us to make forward progress.

The musical performances were superb -- Aretha Franklin, then later Itzhak Perlman, (violin), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Gabriela Montero (piano) and Anthony McGill (clarinet) performing selections by John Williams.

The poem by Elizabeth Alexander provided a pause, a reflection, and a breath of fresh air:
"In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light."

The benediction by Rev. Joseph E. Lowery brought levity as well as truth:
" us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right."

I feel blessed to have witnessed a miraculous historic event.

Tim Oey

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Shock and Awe

I was shocked at the history I saw happen in real time when I viewed the World Trade Center towers collapse on 9/11/2001. I hope I, and my descendents, never have to witness such a disaster again.

Thankfully, I am now in awe at the history unfolding in real time as Barack Obama becomes President of the United States -- the day after Martin Luther King Day and 200 years since Abraham Lincoln was born. Barack Obama is poised to be the most positive force for world change in recent memory, perhaps even in the history of our nation. I hope he proves to be an enduring role model that inspires others in the future. In his speeches and his books, he has already left an indelible mark on humankind.

Here are some of the most memorable excerpts from his recent speeches.

Jan. 8, 2008, after losing the New Hampshire primary to Sen. Hillary Clinton

"But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.
For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we've been told that we're not ready, or that we shouldn't try, or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people.
Yes we can.
It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.
Yes we can.
It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom through the darkest of nights. Yes we can.
It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.
Yes we can.
It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballot; a president who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.
Yes we can to justice and equality. Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity.
Yes we can heal this nation.
Yes we can repair this world. Yes we can."

July 24, 2008, before an estimated 200,000 people in Berlin during his European tour.

"Sixty years ago, the planes that flew over Berlin did not drop bombs; instead they delivered food, and coal, and candy to grateful children. And in that show of solidarity, those pilots won more than a military victory. They won hearts and minds; love and loyalty and trust — not just from the people in this city, but from all those who heard the story of what they did here.
Now the world will watch and remember what we do here — what we do with this moment. Will we extend our hand to the people in the forgotten corners of this world who yearn for lives marked by dignity and opportunity; by security and justice? Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time?
Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words "never again" in Darfur?
Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world? Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don't look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?
People of Berlin — people of the world — this is our moment. This is our time."

August 28, 2008, when accepting the Democratic Party's nomination for President on the 45th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

"This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich.
We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong.
Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores. Instead, it is that American spirit — that American promise — that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend. That promise is our greatest inheritance. It's a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours — a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.
And it is that promise that 45 years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream … "We cannot walk alone," the preacher cried. "And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."

Yes we can. This is our time. We cannot turn back. Go 'bama!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Facebook is an interesting and fun place to hang out online. Yes it can be a time sink but so can many other activities.

I just made a Facebook badge for myself:
Tim Oey's Facebook profile

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Department of Peace

Yoko Ono supports a Department of Peace, see:

I've posted the following to the "Department of Peace" discussion:


The State Department really is the current Department of Peace. It's mission as stated in it's current strategic plan (see is:

"Advance freedom for the benefit of the American people and the international community by helping to build and sustain a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world composed of well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty, and act responsibly within the international system."

I believe that doing the above is the best way to accomplish Peace. Economics has a huge part in Peace as does helping other sustainable governments succeed. This all best belongs in the State Department. I'm a very strong believer in Peace and have been demonstrating in Peace Rallies since the Iraq war began.

So my vote for a Department of Peace is really a vote to better staff and fund the Department of State (rather than the "Defense Department" or "Department of War").

For more about my efforts to support Peace, please see,, and


Tim Oey

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Obama & His Blackberry

I think Obama should keep his Blackberry and use it to stay in touch with friends and family.

If communications on it must be preserved for the Presidential Records Act, all the better, as the personal communications of a President on a day to day basis would be a fascinating history to capture for future generations.

Of course he should use it only for casual correspondence that does include any sensitive information.

Read more at: