Utopia Bagel at Boca Lyons

We had mixed views on Utopia Bagel this morning. On the up side, the food was good (though not spectacular) and inexpensive. You could easily get breakfast for less than $5 each, though we spent a little more.
On the down side, the interior is dark and drab. Service is essentially cafeteria style, with plastic and styrofoam cups and plates.
We both had eggs. I had a ham, sausage and bacon omelette with peppers and onions, which was very good. It should probably come with a free Lipitor, but instead it comes with potatoes, a bagel, a very small orange juice, and coffee or tea.
The potatoes were okay but bland. There was little seasoning and I didnt notice any onions or peppers.
For my breakfast buddy, the drabness outweighed everything else. But I still liked it. I’m sure I’ll be back but I might be alone.
Utopia Bagel is in Boca Lyons Plaza next to Ethan Allen.
–Update– I do in fact return somewhat often, alone. The food has grown on me and the staff are great.

Boca Falls – Monuments

The Boca Falls HOA had a meeting tonight to consider a “special assessment” to fund new monuments for the development. The monuments stand at the entrance to each subdivision within the community. A picture of the proposed monument is below:

The board and the landscape committee have been looking at this idea for about four years. The proposal is to assess each home $250 for the project.
The meeting was well attended with about thirty people. The video below shows an early part. A few more people showed up afterward.
Boca Falls HOA Meeting
Members of the audience expressed concern. Some seemed angry, both due to the difficult economy, and due to what seems like a large expense.
Several spoke up in favor, saying that $250 is a small amount. Others felt that the total project cost ($734,000) works out to $1000 per home, most of which comes out of the budget or reserves.
There are 5 houses in foreclosures and a total of 40-45 that are in some legal status. These are more likely not to pay the assessment and that was factored in.
Some of the audience didn’t understand that many decisions were made over the course of four years and residents had an opportunity to comment at many meetings along the way.
The sense of the board appears to be that the monuments and associated landscaping need to be redone to preserve or restore the community’s status as the premiere neighborhood in West Boca.
I have to say that even though I personally disagree with the decision, the board obviously put a lot of time and effort into this and appear to be doing what the community wants.

Chamber Breakfast

About 50 people attended for a West Boca Chamber breakfast meeting. Upcoming chamber events include a Women in Business luncheon (men apparently not welcome) on May 16th at Boca Greens Country Club, and an After Hours Networking event at the Jimmy the Greek Taverna on May 24th at 5:30 pm. Also notable is the October 5th golf tournament to be held starting at 1 pm at Boca Greens.

Judges Ron Alvarez and James Martz led the pledge of allegiance. Both are running for reelection in August. Apparently someone doesn’t like Judge Martz, but we suspect that’s just sour grapes. Alvarez has some competition for his seat, according to WPTV, but the last name Goodman isn’t going to help at the moment. For more on the judicial race, see this article in the Palm Beach Post.
Attendees introduced themselves to the room, describing briefly what they do. The attendees were a wide array including attorneys (many attorneys), accountants, insurance, investment and real estate professionals, candidates, contractors and so on.
Next meeting will have meteorologist Kate Parker. I did not hear the date and it’s not on their website.
Capt. Eisenberg reports an increase in car break-ins and residential burglaries.
Don’t leave anything in your car. The criminals seem to target shopping plazas during the day and your driveway at night.
Put your alarm on during the day. This appears to be a quasi-professional organized effort going on all over South Florida. Call the police if you see something suspicious.
Rep. Steve Perman spoke about the state legislature. He described four major issues during the past session, including the budget, redistricting, destination gambling, and insurance reform.
The new District 81 will be entirely within Palm Beach County, mostly west.
Destination Gambling: Perman discussed the pros and cons. The proposal did not have enough support and was withdrawn.
Budget: State budgeting now tends to push costs down to the counties.
Perman opposes cuts to education, including taking $350 million from Bright Futures.
Insurance Reform: Citizens Insurance program is oversubscribed. Private carriers leaving Florida. Majority solution was to move people into “surplus lines” that are based in other states, using an opt-out approach. Opposition wanted opt-in. The measure did not go through.
Perman suggests encouraging carriers in other places to do business here but wasn’t completely clear how that would work.
Change in PIP. Reduction in PIP benefits for most claimants from $10K to $2500. Turns on whether patient seeks emergent care, not including chiropractors (Perman is a chiropractor), podiatrists and a couple other fields. The part that reduces premiums was removed.
Your correspondent asked: Would you cut spending or raise taxes?
Perman criticized a corporate tax deduction for contributions to private schools. He later admitted this would not be enough money to cover the amount he wants to spend.
He spoke at length about philosophy but did not answer the question of where he would cut or where he would add taxes.
He spoke philosophically asserted that government services are more transparent and accountable than private services (like schools). A couple attendees groaned in disagreement.
There was a good discussion about the negative effect of testing on the schools. Perman blamed the GOP supermajority and at least one audience member blamed Gov. Scott.
Perman stuck around after his talk and engaged in conversation with attendees. He was personable and pleasant. While he did not have great answers for questions about the budget, few Republican candidates provide adequate answers.
Paul Tocker is running for County Commission, District 5. He is strongly supportive of the Inspector General and feels the Democrats are not supporting this key effort for ethics and accountability. He pointed to evidence that Democrat insiders have been trying to use their influence improperly, such as this story in the Palm Beach Post. In the article the current commissioner, Burt Aaronson “said he has ‘always supported a system where we don’t go against sitting judges.'” This is a disturbing attitude, since it denies the whole point of having elections. It also appears dishonest, since the article continues: “For months before McAuliffe resigned, Aronberg had planned to challenge him in the Democratic primary with the backing of Aaronson and other prominent political figures.”
20120508-091421.jpg

Hotwire Communications Fails

It has been about a month since Hotwire Communications came to install their new service in our house in Boca Falls. We are finally throwing in the towel and having DirecTV reinstalled.
For past blog posts on Hotwire in Boca Falls, please see:
Hotwire Communications Problems; Hotwire Problems Continue; Hotwire Communications Update
We have had problems with the service almost every day. The problems ranged from brief glitches in the picture to the service not working at all. Hotwire staff have been to our house roughly 10 times. On at least two occasions they were in our house for hours, disrupting our lives.
Sometimes their efforts would result in brief improvements. On other occasions it would be worse after they left. At one point we were told the problem was in their central equipment and that was then fixed. The problems continued. Every day I hear from more residents unhappy with them.
I have requested a technical explanation, and the response has been silence. At this point we have the opinion that Hotwire Communications is not only incompetent but dishonest.
On the technical side, consider this 2008 Motorola press release. It indicates that Hotwire would be using Motorola equipment for the network and the home. I don’t know what they’re using at the center of their network, but the equipment in our home is not Motorola. We have a router from Alcatel/Lucent and a switch from “Trendnet”. Our set top box is branded ADB.
One theory as to why it works so poorly is that Hotwire chose to use cheap equipment. Another theory is that the whole idea of IPTV (internet protocol television) is fundamentally flawed. More likely we’re somewhere in the middle – that IPTV is difficult to deliver well, and Hotwire is not competent to do it well.
For an interesting if somewhat dated reference, consider this (pdf): Stephen Davies: Secrets to Successful IPTV Deployment
I love this quote from it:

We may never know why the Hotwire Communications setup in Boca Falls has failed. But we do know it has failed. The dishonesty comes from their failure to let us know ahead of time that we’re their guinea pigs. If they had been honest about that up front, our HOA might not have fallen for it.

Chow Thai in Sandalfoot

We eat lunch at Chow Thai about once a month and we like it. The interior design is pleasant but maybe a touch busy.

20120507-124515.jpg
The lunch comes with soup and salad. Today’s soup is chicken and rice. Great flavor with a robust broth and strong hints of ginger.

20120507-125036.jpg
Main courses we ordered today were sweet and sour chicken …

20120507-125722.jpg
And shrimp red curry …

20120507-125810.jpg
We both ordered edamame instead of fried wonton for an extra dollar.
Both meals were very good. The shrimp could have had more vegetables with it but there was enough shrimp. The rice was also a little dry. But these are minor quibbles about an otherwise nice meal.

9 Truths About Julia and the Obama Campaign

The Obama campaign has a new angle on the election, presenting the Life of Julia. Below are 9 truths about this questionable story.
Age 3 – Head Start
The Head Start program supposedly helps Julia “get ready for school.”
Head Start does not make kids more ready for school
Truth: There is little evidence that kids in Head Start do better in school. The center-left Brookings Institution reported that “children’s attendance in Head Start has no demonstrable impact on their academic, socio-emotional, or health status at the end of first grade.”
While Brookings concludes the program needs to be reformed, there is another view. The federal government has had over 45 years to get the program right, spending billions a year on it. Let’s rip the band-aid off now. Education and care of children is primarily a matter for families. To the extent that government is involved, it is a local and state matter. Federal involvement is inherently more wasteful and less effective.
Age 17 – Race to the Top
Race to the Top allows Julia to better prepare for college?
Another federal program that sounds good but does little
Truth: Race to the Top is a small program which does little for schools. The total spending of about $4 billion is spread unevenly over the nation’s roughly 50 million school children. That’s $80 per child when we spend something like $10,000/year. It also increases the already-excessive emphasis on testing, even for pre-schoolers.
Age 18 – College
The Obama campaign claims it’s helping make college more affordable.

Truth: The $10,000 tax credit over four years amounts to $2500 per year. But the cost of many colleges has increased by more than $2500 in the past four years. Pell Grants suffer a similar problem – they don’t provide that much money and not all students can get them. According to government statistics (Excel), half of applicants were denied and the average grant was $3700 in 2009-2010.
The harder truth is this: “Colleges and universities increase tuition to capture increases in federal and state financial aid.” So says Minding the Campus.
Age 22: Surgery
Julia needs surgery and, thanks to President Obama, she’s covered by her parents’ health insurance.

Truth: Unfortunately for Julia and her family, her father lost his job and his health insurance insurance two years ago. Her mother works, but her low-wage job doesn’t provide health insurance. While President Obama blames this on former President Bush, his own policies have utterly failed to get the economy going. His presidency has been little different from the Bush years, with Race to the Top being a follow-on to No Child Left Behind, continued wars, deficits and reckless federal spending.
If, on the other hand, Julia’s parents both have jobs with health insurance, Julia probably did not qualify for the Head Start program and other education programs mentioned earlier in the story because her parents make too much money. And with co-pays, deductibles, and the rapid increase in the cost of medical care, Julia paid as much for her surgery today as she would have 10 years ago without insurance.
Age 23 – Jobs
Julia gets equal pay because of “the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act”

Truth: This would be funny if it wasn’t so sad, and it’s perhaps the most glaring sign that the Obama campaign doesn’t get what’s going on in the country outside the DC Bubble.
From the AP – 1 in 2 new graduates are jobless or underemployed

A weak labor market already has left half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge. Young adults with bachelor’s degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs – waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example – and that’s confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans.

Julia is starting her career as a barista at Starbucks, part-time without insurance. And statistics show that despite decades of federal efforts, the wage gap persists with women making 80% of what men earn.
Age 25 – Student Loans
Julia gets lower interest rates on her student loans.

Truth: This Julia is amazing. First her family is so poor that she’s in head start and getting all kinds of assistance for being poor. Then her parents have jobs with health insurance so they can’t be all that poor. But she gets federal aid for school so they’re poor again. Then she gets a job as a web designer after college so she must be doing well, but now she can’t afford to pay her student loans without help. This is making me dizzy.
On the substance of the proposed cut in interest rates, it will save Julia a whopping $7 per month according to the Wall Street Journal.
Age 27 – Birth Control
Despite four years working full-time as a web designer, Julia needs government help to pay for birth control.

Truth: Web designers make an average of $62K. Maybe Julia can come up with the $300 or so a year that it costs. But even more stunning is that an awful lot of health insurance plans covered birth control before Obamacare and it’s required by 28 states. Julia probably would have birth control coverage in her health care package regardless of Obamacare. Web designers often work for tech companies that tend to be more progressive.
Age 31: Pregnancy
Julia gets free health care for her pregnancy

Truth: We again see Julia flipping back and forth from a successful web designer child of successful parents to a poor struggling waif who needs government to take care of her. She’s been working full-time as a web designer now for eight years now. Wasn’t the health care package from her job covering all of this long before Obama became President?
Age 42: Julia Starts a Small Business
Julia starts a web business and gets loans from the Small Business Administration

Truth: Since when do web businesses start with government loans? This one really bothers me because I started my own web business. Web businesses are generally inexpensive to start up. And there’s no shortage of venture capitalists willing to invest in web businesses. Julia now has 20 years of experience in web design, and one would hope she saved some money along the way. Why can’t Julia fund her own business? Why can’t she find financing in the private sector.
The government loan thing is particularly disturbing given the President’s history with Solyndra, a government loan gone bad. And the SBA has had its share of problems.
The Obama campaign’s Life of Julia is just another in a long line of political junk stories from both sides. At least Joe the Plumber was a real person, even if flawed.