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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore



Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

 

Life in the Fast Lane

Monday, May 28th, 2012

A Monday Rerun

In some parts of the nation, they call them Diamond Lanes. In other parts they might call them Fast Lanes, or Commuter Lanes, or Carpool Lanes. What they should be called is Traffic Jam Lanes and they are an always-visible reminder of how bad government is at solving problems.

The idea was encourage people to carpool to relieve the massive traffic tie-ups most large cities experience during rush hours. But as always happens when do-gooders impose their visions on the rest of us, the law of unintended consequences reared it’s always ugly head. Instead of reliving traffic jams, these liberal icons to failed urban planning usually make them worse by forcing the same number of cars into fewer lanes, thereby extending commute times as they increase the pollution spewing from vehicles forced to idle for longer periods in bumper-to-bumper traffic. And this stupid, failed scheme to manipulate drivers plays out nationwide every day, or at least, every workday.

I got to experience it twice the other day.

I was taking Mrs. Blogger to visit her mother, a drive of about 75 minutes that requires I pass through Boston, Massachusetts. You might remember Boston as the town that spent well over 20 billions dollars to build a 3.5 mile tunnel under the city, a project that was supposed to cost only $2.5 billion when the scheme was sold to the voters. But I digress.

The trip entailed a ride down Interstate 93, a road that is invariably backed-up for seven or more miles during the morning commute. For that reason, we waited until 10 AM to leave, expecting all the daily drivers would be planted at their desks for the day.

As we approached the spot where the Fast Lane begins, I looked ahead and saw the traffic in the other lanes we zipping right along. I mentally congratulated myself on waiting to start the trip, but then decided to try out the Fast Lane anyway, which I could do since vehicles need only two people in them to legally use the lane.

We’d not traveled much further than I’d earlier been able to see when the traffic in the other three lanes came to a stop. I congratulated myself again on my good luck at having the impulse to try the Fast Lane. But somewhat over a mile later I was confused. The traffic in the other lanes was moving fine again, but we’d not passed any accident or work crew that might have caused a curiosity slowdown further back. Then I realized the problem.

To create the Fast Lane and the barrier island that prevents the wrong-thinking masses who commute alone from crossing over to the Fast Lane, what used to be a four-lane elevated highway that matched the four lanes of Interstate 93 had been reduced to three lanes, plus the concrete barrier. What was causing the traffic jam further back was three lanes of traffic having to weave themselves down to two lanes.

Meanwhile, I and two other cars continued to zip along in the nearly empty Fast lane. What a great system, eh?

Suffice to say the same sort of thing happened later in the day as I returned, with four lanes being squeezed down to three to accommodate the Fast Lane.

These feeble and useless attempts at social engineering drive me crazy. It would be bad enough if they tried this stuff, then stopped when it became clear it wasn’t working, but socialists and other true-believers will never admit any idea of theirs is garbage, which is why we’ve had to deal with these Diamond Lanes for over 30 years now.

Why do we endure this foolishness, this bureaucratic bungling and refusal to acknowledge failure? Have we really become such a nation of sheep that we actually enjoy having our wallets shorn to support mindless, useless money and time wasters? Sure seems like it.

 

Electric cars – no progress in 115 years

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Greenies, including Our Dear leader, have been pushing electric cars for quite awhile. Much hot air and even more ink has been expended in extolling the virtues and benefits to the environment and everything else.

As it turns out, electric cars are nothing new, and the 35-miles-per-charge limit the Chevy Volt boasts is no better than was was achieved way back in 1896. That’s not a typo — 1896. Check out the following short piece I founded today on the Daily Caller.

115-year-old electric car gets same 40 miles to the charge as Chevy Volt

Meet the Roberts electric car. Built in 1896, it gets a solid 40 miles to the charge — exactly the mileage Chevrolet advertises for the Volt, the highly touted $31,645 electric car General Motors CEO Dan Akerson called “not a step forward, but a leap forward.”

The executives at Chevrolet can rest easy for now. Since the Roberts was constructed in an age before Henry Ford’s mass production, the 115-year-old electric car is one of a kind.

But don’t let the car’s advanced age let you think it isn’t tough: Its present-day owner, who prefers not to be named, told The Daily Caller it still runs like a charm, and has even completed the roughly 60-mile London to Brighton Vintage Car Race.

If you didn’t know there are electric cars as old as the Roberts, you aren’t alone. Prior to today’s electric v. gas skirmishes, there was another battle: electric v. gas v. steam. This contest was fought in the market place, and history shows gas gave electric and steam an even more thorough whooping than Coca-Cola gave Moxie.

But while the Roberts electric car clearly lacked GPS, power steering and, yes, air bags, the distance it could achieve on a charge, when compared with its modern equivalent, provides a telling example of the slow pace of the electric car.

Driven by a tiller instead of a wheel, the Roberts car was built seven years before the Wright brothers’ first flight, 12 years before the Ford Model T, 16 years before Chevrolet was founded and 114 years before the first Chevy Volt was delivered to a customer.

As the New York Times reported September 5, “For General Motors and the Obama administration, the new Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid represents the automotive future, the culmination of decades of high-tech research financed partly with federal dollars.”

Like “green technology’s” most powerful proponent, President Barack Obama, the 1896 Roberts was made in Chicago. Obama, who supports the $7,500 tax credit for the Volt, is not fazed by its 40-mile electric limit — he only drove the car 10 feet.

Interesting, eh? The car of the future gets less mileage-per-charge than the car of the long-past. Unless, of course, you do as Chevy has done and build-in a gasoline generator.

For someone who lives in a city and never ventures very far outside its borders, the Volt might be a good choice…if it really doesn’t spontaneously catch fire sometime after an accident. But I would bet most of us regularly need to travel significantly farther than 40 miles when we hop in our vehicles. So you are still going to regularly be burning gasoline. And you’re going to pay $40,000 for a Volt instead of $16,000 for, say, a Toyota Corolla, the car my wife is very happy driving. Of course, if you buy a Volt, the taxpayers will help pay for some of it via a $7500 tax credit.

In a free society, shouldn’t it be up to the people to decide what they want? Shouldn’t it be the government’s job to make sure nobody tries to force citizens to make choices they don’t want to make. Shouldn’t it be government’s job to ensure a level playing field for business where each is free to compete and free people making free choices in a free market will determine the winners and losers?

The answer, of course, is yes, unless you are the American government. Then, because politicians and bureaucrats are so much smarter than the rest of us, it’s your job to decide what you think is best and use the power of government to force the rest of us to toe your ideological line.

We’ve reached the point in America where government no longer even pays lip service to the idea of freedom. It spends all it’s time picking winners and losers and taking from those who produce and giving to those who do not.

Is it any wonder that so many long for a new American Revolution, one way or another?

What do you think?

Do you own or would you consider a Chevy Volt?

And what do you see as government’s job?

By the way, Discovery has a History of Cars timeline on their website, if you’re interested.

 

Nursing mom “humiliated” by TSA. Forced to pump in public bathroom.

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Why anyone boards an airplane in America anymore is beyond me.

First we have TSA goons sexually assaulting adults who don’t want to be irradiated in the “see me naked” machine. Then they grope the genitals of babies in diapers. Then they force a 95-year-old woman in a wheelchair to remove her adult diaper.  So is it any wonder that we hear about a woman being forced to prove her breast pump is real?

Mom With Breast Pump ‘Humiliated’ by TSA

A mother in Hawaii was “humiliated” when she felt she needed to pump breast milk in the open area of an airport bathroom in order for a TSA agent to permit her to get through security with her breast pumping equipment.

“I’m in a dress, in heels and I find myself in front of a sink and mirrors with travelers coming in and out of the bathroom,” Amy Strand told ABCNews.com. “I’m standing at the sink with my breast hanging out, pumping. I wanted to cry. I was humiliated.”

Strand, 38, is a mother of four and principal at a public school in Maui. She frequently travels between islands for business and had never had a problem with the equipment before.

On Wednesday, as she was making her way through airport security at Lihue Airport in Kauai, she was stopped in security and an agent asked if he could look at the equipment. She obliged, and the agent opened her kit to find her pump, a cooler pack and empty milk bottles.

Strand said she had done “what no nursing mother wants to do” 20 minutes earlier and dumped out the milk in the bottles in order to avoid any hassle going through security. She never imagined that empty bottles would be the problem.

The agent told her the ice pack would not be allowed through security without milk in the bottles. Strand said the ice pack is specially made for the milk’s cooler and would not be easy to replace.

“It really confuses me as to how an empty breast pump and cooler pack are a threat to national security and 20 minutes later, with milk, they no longer pose a threat to national security,” Strand said incredulously.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Do Amy Strand or her baby daughter, who was traveling with her, look like terrorists? When was the last time a young American woman with a baby tried to blow up an airplane? Did I miss that incident?

At least this time, the TSA apologized and admitted the agent was wrong. But why does this kind of thing happen in the first place?

It happens because nobody in the Federal Government has the testicular fortitude to put aside political correctness and admit that profiling everyone is not the best solution to the problem. It’s just a way to pretend one, certain political/religious group is not responsible for virtually all the acts of terrorism around the world.

So babies and grannies get groped as we teach our sons and daughters that nobody should ever touch them “down there” except mom and dad, the doctor, and the government. And moms get humiliated for daring to want to travel while breast feeding.

But hey, at least we’re not profiling Muslims.

Comments anyone?

 

Are our cars getting too “smart” for our own good?

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

The ultimate mobile device
Cars’ Internet connections may change driving life

Talk about a smart car.

Coming soon to a garage near you is a car that will download your work schedule and trigger your alarm clock. By the time you get behind the wheel, the car will have analyzed the morning’s traffic and weather and calculated the best route to get you to the office on time. You won’t even have to touch the radio – it’s already playing the same station you were listening to in the house. And as you pull away, it will shut the garage door and turn off the lights.

Cadillac’s CUE system already offers a suite of navigation and communication tools

Those capabilities are built into Ford Motor Co.’s Internet-connected Evos, a so-called concept car making its North American debut at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“By 2014, you’re going to see nearly every auto manufacturer have a connected vehicle option,’’ said Leo McCloskey, vice president of marketing at Airbiquity Inc., a Seattle firm that manages wireless communications for many models of connected cars.

About 40 percent of the cars sold in the United States last year can already connect to wireless data networks, allowing drivers to listen to Internet radio stations or get traffic reports; the next step will be cars that constantly monitor online data.

Alan Taub, vice president of global research and development for General Motors Corp., said his company’s goal is “360-degree situational awareness’’ – a car that can “see’’ and respond to its environment.

Too much technology, however, might overwhelm drivers, posing new dangers.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Call me a Luddite, if you will, but I’m one of the folks who think 24/7 connectivity is not a good thing. I spend ten to twelve hours each day here at the keyboard to earn my living and when I quit, the very last thing I want to do is jump online or play some mindless game on my telephone. Speaking of which, I’m the proud owner of a dumb phone. All it’s allowed to do is to make and receive phone calls. Text messages? Not for me. If one of the few people who have my cell number have want to tell me something, they can call. If it’s not important enough to call, it’s not information I need.

Knowing all that, you can imagine my reaction when I read the article, above. The very idea of driving a car with total connectivity seems crazy to me.

Paying attention to what is happening around you on the road is difficult enough when one is alone in a car doing nothing but driving. Add the distraction of a phone call, and attention declines. Up the ante with texting and you’re an accident waiting to happen. Adding the kind of technology talked about in the article can only make things even worse.

Do we really need our cars and trucks monitoring our stress level to decide if we’re too distracted by the technology that’s causing the stress? Wouldn’t we all be better off if all the technology was simply turned off to begin with?

It is the challenge of the auto industry, as well as regulators, to objectively assess what tasks should be safely allowed in the vehicle.

I don’t see that as a challenge at all. Driving is the only thing that should be done in a moving vehicle. Anything else, like changing a radio station or eating or texting or applying makeup or reading or any of the myriad things we do in cars while driving, serves only to distract us. Purposely installing even more distractions would seem to be a recipe for disaster.

What do you folks think?

Do you think the kinds of technology they’re talking about can be installed without having a deleterious effect on the driver’s ability to drive safely?

What kinds of things have you done while driving that reduce your attention to the road?

And have you ever been involved in an accident because you or the other driver were distracted by something?

 

Are you a ‘hypermiler’ who’s trying to save gas? I was once, sort of.

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

If they could coast all the way, they would
‘Hypermilers’ nurse every last drop of gas

Sarah Boisvert was driving down Beacon Street, more cheerful than she should have been on a congested Friday afternoon. Then again, she had made it through successive green lights without having to waste gas by hitting her car’s brakes – a happy situation known as “riding the green wave’’ by a certain set of road warriors.

They are the hypermilers – you know, those virtuous types who are obsessed with maximizing fuel economy. Many of their techniques involve no more than common sense and a Zen approach to the road. Hypermilers ask “What would a Boston driver do?’’ and then pretty much do the reverse.

Some are Prius drivers for whom the hybrid’s already admirable 51/48 miles-per-gallon fuel efficiency isn’t sufficient. Others want to get a bit more from their gas-hungry SUVs or pickups. The founder of a popular hypermiling competition, Eric Powers, said that the vigilant can beat the Environmental Protection Agency estimates by an impressive 50 percent, and the EPA reports that aggressive driving (namely the antithesis of hypermiling) can lower gas mileage by 33 percent on the highway.

Statistics on hypermilers are hard to come by, but signs of interest abound. A prominent hypermiling website, CleanMpg.com, claims more than 15,000 members. “We see an increase of about 2,000 members every year,’’ said Wayne Gerdes, the site’s founder and the man credited with coining the term.

Not only are sales of ScanGauge II, a plug-in gadget that retails for $160 and monitors fuel consumption, growing, but the manufacturer, Linear Logic in Arizona, recently introduced a second product that makes monitoring gas consumption even easier. “The more people hear about hypermiling, the more they get interested,’’ said marketing manager Joey Snyder.

And, perhaps most telling: Hypermiling may soon have its own app.

Click Here to read the rest of the article.

Besides disco, what I remember most clearly about the 1970s was everyone waiting in lines, long lines, to buy gasoline.

The term hypermiler hadn’t been invented then, but that’s sort of what many of us became. To minimize the frequency of having to wait in line for thirty minutes to an hour and hope they’d still have gas to sell when you got to the front, I and lots of other folks started driving slower, coasting down long hills in neutral, doing our best to minimize the number of full stops — many of the things folks today are doing to save money.

Time has always been more valuable to me than money, so the idea of repeating the efforts of the 70s to save a hundred bucks or so a year is not one I’m likely to embrace.  That said, I do avoid jackrabbit starts and, from habit, still take my foot off the gas when going down long hills — unless I have cruise control on, of course.

Have you done anything to modify your consumption of gasoline?

If not, can you envision a time when price or availability will force you to do so?

 

Shutting down communications to stop a protest. Right or wrong?

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Earlier this month, San Francisco transportation authorities shut down communications to forestall a planned protest to disrupt subway service.

Many are questioning and even protesting the decision.

My question is, was the action right or wrong? Here’s the story. My thoughts on it follow.

Phone cutoff stirs free speech fight

Police in riot gear. Masked demonstrators ready for a confrontation. And then government forces shut down the wireless network to try to thwart plans for the “flash mob’’ protest coordinated by cellphones and Twitter.

It’s not a scene from the Arab Spring, but one from America’s beautiful city on the bay, San Francisco. It developed with a backdrop not of tanks and fires but of thousands of annoyed commuters trying to get to their trains.

Worried about a plan to disrupt service, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police this month decided to pull the plug on the system that allows underground cellphone service. It lasted only a few hours, but the decision continues to resonate.

Protests continue, this time about the decision to shut down the cellphones. Civil libertarians are alarmed. And First Amendment scholars are intrigued.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

I’m of two minds on this one.

On the one hand, I’m having a hard time faulting the transit cops for what they did. Their job is to keep the peace throughout the system so the system can function smoothly and get folks where they want to go. They could have called the city police, flooded stations with cops, and arrested anyone who started any disruption. Instead, they prevented the organizers of the protest from organizing it. No arrests, no damage, minimal, if any, disruption in service.

On the other hand, do we want government agencies to be able to shut down communications whenever citizens plan or start doing something they don’t like?

Perhaps the key here is that the network that permits cellphone service throughout the underground system is owned and maintained by the transit system. They apparently provide it as a convenience for riders. If budgets shrank, they could choose to eliminate it altogether.

Still, it’s the kind of action other government entities could point to to justify other, more wide spread disruptions in service.

If the Feds get wind of a massive protest planned to embarrass the President or some foreign dignitary, should they be able to order cellphone providers to turn off cell towers in and around Washington? Should they be able to electronically monitor cellphone communications and disconnect, then block re-connection between the owners of phones their software decides are planning to disrupt the peace? What about state, city, or town officials?

What do you think?

Did the San Francisco transit cops do good or bad?

Should the Feds or government at any level have the power to disrupt communications of any kind in a free society?

 

Sunday Videos

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Okay, so you’re on the bus going to work in the morning. You’re hoping for a few minutes to relax in peace before the rat race starts in the office.

No such luck…

If you enjoy illusions, you might like the Incredible Shade Illusion!

Note: I thought it was a trick rather than a true illusion so I did a screen capture and checked the color values in Photoshop. They were not identical, but but close enough.

Try it for yourself!

And finally, I thought this video was pretty cool. But please don’t try it at home.

 

Big Brother in your back seat

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Congratulations to last week’s Comment Contest winner Rob Andrews.

***

Will the busy-bodies never find something constructive to do with their time…

FoodPolitik: Big Brother in your back seat

Remember the Tom Cruise movie “Minority Report?” It was the one where the “Precrime” police unit armed with new technology arrested you before you committed a future crime they could detect.

The Interlock device is getting a facelift as the government is already funding the research for the new technology, which includes sweat sensors on steering wheels, devices in mirrors which scan a driver's eyes and sniffer devices that detect the smell of alcohol.

Fast forward to today’s self appointed traffic cops. In their ideal future, any automobile you’ll purchase will have an in-car alcohol detector to stop you from “drinking and driving” before you get the opportunity. (Despite drunken driving fatalities being at an all time low, i.e., one per every 274,244,948 miles driven, some activists can’t rest until they can get to every last drop).

To be clear, I’m not talking about or objecting to attempts to stop drunk driving. But in activists’ future world, your car won’t start even if you were drinking below the current level for arrest. Physiological factors and liability concerns dictate that these detection devices will be set well below the current legal limit of .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) — possibly as low as .02 or .03.

Today’s nanny-state advocates are pressing Congress to spend another $60 million of your money for additional research into this technology, to stop you from having a glass of wine with dinner before you get behind the wheel.

Debt crisis? What debt crisis?

Click Here to read the rest of the column.

Seriously…these self-righteous control freaks in our nation are beginning to really piss me off. Now they want to stop me from having a glass of Chianti with my Veal Florentine when we go out to dinner?

Instead of punishing everyone for the sins of the few, how about punishing the sinners first.

Does anyone think this is a good idea?

Any new car dealers think this will enhance business?

 

 

New York nastiness, New fuel voids car warranties, and A happy ending

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner — Christie.

***

As if one was needed, here is another reason not to live in New York City:

Woman fined $100 for improper newspaper disposal

There is ticket trouble for a woman on the Upper East Side. She says she threw away her newspapers in a city trash can, and seconds later a city worker came running over, yelling at her. She says she froze and didn’t know what to do.

All Darbe Pitofsky did was toss her morning newspapers into the corner trash can, and boy, did that light a fire under a Sanitation Department supervisor.

“I was terrorized by this guy,” Pitofsky said. “I didn’t know what he was going to do next. He was crazed. He’s screaming at me.”

All of this happened at 6:30 on a Saturday morning late last month. The supervisor cited the 83-year-old for tossing household garbage in a corner basket meant for pedestrian litter only. The fine was $100.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Here is what I don’t understand — if  the woman was walking on the sidewalk, that makes her a pedestrian and so the newspaper is pedestrian litter. Correct? Or am I missing something?

One wonders if the overbearing sanitation supervisor would have been as aggressively abusive to a young, muscular man as he was to an elderly woman.

I guess this is just further evidence  for living in the city making folks mentally ill.

What do you think?

***

Automakers fight E15 fuel mixture

In a victory for the corn lobby and ethanol proponents, the Environmental Protection Agency is in the home stretch to begin allowing newer cars and light trucks to fill up on gasoline containing 15% ethanol.

But automakers remain displeased about the prospect of E15 in their vehicles’ tanks and are publicly fighting back before the higher blend’s debut.

In letters released Tuesday, a dozen domestic and foreign manufacturers complained that the higher ethanol content could damage their vehicles’ engines and void customers’ warranties.

They also said the EPA’s new warning sticker — released last week — was not enough to keep unsuspecting drivers from misfueling vehicles with the new blend.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

I’m constantly amused at the lengths to which Washington will go to not solve the problem of imported oil by drilling for what we already have. Instead, they deem it better to further drive up food prices by diverting more corn from the food chain to the fuel chain.

And best of all, if you do mistakenly use the E15 fuel in your chainsaw or old Ford truck and ruin it, not only will you be out some dough, you’ll have committed a federal crime. My advice — should you be so unlucky — when the EPA goons burst through your front door en masse with their no-knock warrant to haul you off to a federal pen, tell them you’re here illegally. They’ll probably just apologize and leave.

Seriously, that link at the end of the previous item…

Will you use the E15 gas in your vehicle or continue to use the current E10, for which engines have been designed?

***

And since it’s Friday, I thought it would be nice to end with a happy story.

Animal lovers use duct tape to rescue ducklings

BOISE — A few animal lovers rescued a few ducklings that were trapped in a storm drain Tuesday night on Victory Road near Five Mile Road.

A passerby noticed a mother duck acting strangely on the side of the road and stopped to see what was going on.  She realized a few ducklings were trapped in the drain.

A bit later, some others had gathered to help remove the ducklings.  They used a stick with duct tape on the end as well as a swimming pool skimmer to take three ducklings out.

All of the rescued ducklings were reunited with their mother who was swimming in a nearby canal.

“Happy ending. It was adorable. It was just wonderful,” Annette Anderson said.

 

TSA to 95-year-old leukemia patient: take off your diaper

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Elderly woman asked to remove adult diaper during TSA search

A woman has filed a complaint with federal authorities over how her elderly mother was treated at Northwest Florida Regional Airport last weekend.

Jean Weber claims her leukaemia-stricken mother, 95, was made to take off her adult diaper by airport security in Florida, who are standing by their actions

Jean Weber of Destin filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security after her 95-year-old mother was detained and extensively searched last Saturday while trying to board a plane to fly to Michigan to be with family members during the final stages of her battle with leukemia.

Her mother, who was in a wheelchair, was asked to remove an adult diaper in order to complete a pat-down search.

“It’s something I couldn’t imagine happening on American soil,” Weber said Friday. “Here is my mother, 95 years old, 105 pounds, barely able to stand, and then this.”

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

That is just wrong on so many levels, but similar incidents happen regularly, along with the standard crotch-groping and other humiliations airline travelers are forced to endure, all in the name of political correctness and official cowardliness.

Yesterday, I had a near-hour-long discussion with a cousin who cannot understand why I’ve refused to fly again until my government stops treating everyone like criminals and focuses their energy where it will actually do some good.

It would be bad enough if the groping and see-you-naked machines actually worked. But they don’t. Another example.

When will this insane treatment of innocents end? Never, as long as people keep flying and complying.

Want to end this madness in a month or two? Stop flying.

When the airlines and Disney World and vacation destinations world-wide start losing money from lack of customers, things will change.

Agree? Disagree? Have a better solution?

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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