Disaster tech: Should California require fire proof construction methods in wildland fire areas?

California has more wild fires, in large part, because its expanding population is wealthier and has migrated into outlying areas in historically fire prone wild land areas. As homes move in, so to do more power lines which are subject to start fires when wind blown trees contact power lines. The state is also historically prone to intense droughts that dry out forests.

Standard wood sided homes with a shake roof are easily burned by wild fires. Homes can, however, be built to be highly fire resistant through the use of non-flammable roofing and non-flammable siding and deck material. This is in addition to keeping clear the area around the home, and using detached garages and shops (a frequent source of accidental fire starts).

When wildfire swept through Bob Heath’s neighborhood in Napa, Calif., a lot of other homes in the fire’s path burned to the ground. In recent years, as many as 2,000 homes (annually) have been destroyed by wildfire, a loss inflated by drought conditions in both eastern and western states, along with steady encroachment of development onto “frontier” lands.Jim Smalley, manager of wildland fire protection for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), notes that some home builders have taken an active role in fire prevention–often getting some perks in the process.

Source: How to Build Fire-Proof Homes | Builder Magazine

A major reason that wild land fires seem worse is the same reason hurricane damages seem worse – as documented by researchers and the insurance industry, more people are living in more expensive structures in locations that are historically prone to “natural disasters”. Damages are up because we are wealthier and build more, nicer buildings in these zones, not because of an increasing incidence of events.

There are solutions. In hurricane prone areas near the ocean, new homes are built on risers with the bottom floor being a garage, storage and recreational area with “break away” walls to accommodate a storm surge.

In tornado prone areas, new construction uses steel fastening straps – or even steel stud construction – to create buildings that can survive the high winds of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Logically, fire prone zones should be using fire resistant construction techniques.

Update – a day after writing this, the SF Chronicle had a report saying much the same, and adding that roof vents are an important weakness in fire resistance as wind blown sparks get sucked into attics.

Business: A Nationwide Scam on Airbnb

How easy is it to exploit Airbnb? While searching for my grifter, I found out.

Source: I Accidentally Uncovered a Nationwide Scam on Airbnb – VICE

After reading this, I might not stay in an AirBnb again. You need to at least skim through this article if you ever stay via AirBnb. Worse, AirBnb rarely – if ever – refunds the costs to those customers who have been scammed.

AirBnb refuses to talk publicly about the scam unearthed in this report.

The FBI is now involved.

STEM: Software development was “dominated by women”- No it was not

Software development was a nascent field, struggling to gain traction and be taken seriously. It was also previously a field dominated by women, and sadly, a new influx of men wanted to come in, take over and make it a “proper, masculine” discipline. So they pretended they were all engineers and they were all building things, like men wearing hardhats in factories in an engineering or manufacturing context.

Source: Software development is a design activity – Extreme Uncertainty

I stopped reading at the bold faced text because that is not true. And if that easily verifiable fact is not true, what does that say about the rest of this report?

Programming hasn’t always been such a male-dominated field. By the 1960s, women made up 30% to 50% of all programmers.

30% to 50% is not “dominated by women”. I entered the field in the early 1980s when women were up to about 40% of the software work force. By the late 1980s, that began to shift and steadily decreased in the 1990s. Now it is under 20% even though for two decades there have been numerous programs to encourage more women to enter STEM. Surprisingly, they have entered STEM but not TE. They use STEM interchangeably with TE when they really mean TE.

What changed? No one has a coherent answer.

One possibility, never discussed, is the advent of the H-1 visa.

In the early 1990s, the H-1B visa was introduced and almost all H-1B visa tech hires were young men. Unfortunately, the government claims not to know the gender of those working on H-1B visas and we have only estimates. By the year 2000, according to a U.S. Department of Commerce study, 28% of jobs in the field requiring at least a Bachelor’s degree were H-1B workers (who were almost all male). This skewed the gender distribution of the work force but is one that we do not publicly talk about.

Regarding women in STEM, last I had looked at NSF data, women were just over 50% of STEM graduates. But it depends on how you define “STEM” and many choose to define steam as “TE” – technology and engineering and not as Science – Technology – Engineering – Math.

I have seen surveys that omit women in the health sciences (nursing is about 90% female), veterinary medicine (majority of new grads are women) and even medicine. Consequently, the public has no idea about any of the underlying data. We are spun by propaganda messaging from those wanting to adopt their agenda.

Note – Over a ten year period I have personally mentored numerous young women in high school through the FIRST Robotics program. They went on to pursue (and complete) degrees in computer science and engineering fields. This is how we can make a difference.