Monday, December 22, 2008

Pre-Christmas Rant

Starbucks logoImage via WikipediaIt's but a few days before Christmas, and I was at my favorite Starbucks (actually, I take that back, I don't have a favorite, just a most often visited, as they are open 24 hours, almost always have a seat, and have plugs for my laptop AND WiFi). When I realized the door was nearly blocked by some protesters. Upon closer look apparently these folks are carpenters, claiming that Starbucks had used contractors who didn't pay the "San Francisco wages".

What's really ironic is one of those "carpenters" is wearing a union carpenter jacket from... Kansas City.

There are a few problems... 1) They are on PRIVATE PROPERTY, as this Starbucks is co-located with a gas station, and 2) I personally thinks that any sort of "minimum pricing" or "minimum wage" is counter-productive to the market, and runs counter to capitalism.

Think about it... If the job don't pay enough to support someone, then that theoretical someone will NOT work that job, right? Unless he has some other jobs as well, but it's HIS call whether he wants to work cheap or not. Why legislate the minimum? Unless you think the individual is TOO STUPID to decide how cheap (or expensive) he wants to work for, and needs the government to help him?

Apparently, our "progressive" city of San Francisco thinks so. San Francisco's "minimum wage" is at $9.79 per hour, starting 1/1/2009. All employees who work in San Francisco more than two hours per week, including part-time and temporary workers, are entitled to the San Francisco minimum wage. And this has been going on for several years.

Apparently, they came up with this figure as a "living wage" in San Francisco... i.e. you need to earn this much for a full-time worker to live in the city.

And who have they prosecuted so far? Just a couple restaurants.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Post-Black Friday Rant

Bluetooth logoImage via WikipediaThis year's Black Friday is a real bust, not much good electronics and gadgets for sale at all. I bought myself a refurb Jawbone 1.0 for $54, and that's via online, even BEFORE black friday.

Which brings me to a rant on Bluetooth headsets.

I don't believe I have very strange ears, so why is it that very few BT headset fits me well? They don't fit comfortably, or they have lousy volume, or they have lousy battery life... The list goes on, and on.

Tried cheap ones, expensive ones, just not super-premium ones yet.

Tried Jabra for a while. Had like three different Jabras. BT125 keeps losing connection to my phone, so did a BT2020. Even that one that uses batteries didn't work that well. One of my friends had it literally smoking (too hot to hold in hand).

Tried third-party. Plugs are never universal, and the fit to ear is usually horrible. Argh! Tried two or three different ones from various sources.

Motorola at least standardized on one plug, but the older models are huge (and still don't fit the ears that well), and a mid-level model (about $40 retail) I got lost half of its volume, making it nearly useless.

Decided to try something a bit higher... Tried a Plantronics "rugged" model... Worked well enough for a week. Then the plastic cover no longer fits. Argh, and neither does the charge port cover.

So when I saw the Jawbone 1 refurb for sale, I decided to try it. New, they got for about $80-$100. 2nd gen Jawbone goes for $130 in stores. The refurb is $55.

First thing I saw is 4 different ear pads and 4 different ear hooks. Wow! And the earhook is metal, but with a rubber stretchy-section. 2nd, it has USB charge cable. In fact, the "home charger" is a 120V to 5V USB adapter. That's usually extra cost item but here it's free. Third, the packaging is very distinct, a clear plastic box with the accessories in black boxes encased below. I'll have to include a picture soon.

So far, it seems to drop connection a bit, but calls are coming in and going out clear, so not too much complaints so far. There's always wish for the smaller model. :D

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Pre-Thanksgiving rant

This is a rant since nobody is cooking turkey this Thanksgiving, and looks like I'm not invited anywhere for their dinner. Not that I really like Turkey any way.

So what's about Turkey and Ham over Thanksgiving any way? Thought you all want people back home about Christmas?

Think about the troops who's still spending time in Iraq or Afghanistan! While the US military will ship them turkey and such, they need your help for stuff they can use! Simple wet wipes, daily sundries, home-made cookies, and more are great morale boosters.

I don't have much thanks to give this year. I guess I've managed to live through another year without getting much done. If you asked me what did I do this year, I really would have told you "I don't know", but at least I did think about it a bit.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day Rant

Today I heard what consider to be one of the dumbest statements I've heard in a while.

Some California House Rep claims that "she's pro-troop", but she demands immediate withdrawal of all US forces in the Middle East. She does not see any contradiction between the two positions... she love the troops, thus she does not want to see them in harm's way, "especially for some illegal orders".

What do you think soldiers do? "Make love, not war"? Soldiers fight! That's what they are trained to do! Don't tell me some blah blah about how some just went in for the scholarships. If they aren't prepared to go to harm's way when called, they should not have joined period! They knew the risks of being deployed. And they swore an oath to obey the chain of command, which includes the President of the United States at the top.

Which brings me to another topic: objectors.

I have no problem with conscientious objectors, if they are REALLY allergic to war. They would have stayed OUT of the military. I'm sure the government can find some place in the Peace Corp or other sort of civil service for you if you rather not serve in the military.

But those who joined the military, then refuse to go? (those who already went a couple times notwithstanding) Those are just cowards and should be sued by the US government to repay all the money and time spent training them, plus the loss of their use at times of need, if not dealt with by the military tribunal/court-martial.

They should be booted out, and ordered by the court to repay the government for lots and lots of money.

Which brings me to another topic: pacifism vs. terrorism

A lot of these objectors claims to have found Pacifism as a counter to the soldier's indoctrination/ orientation about fighting.

You have to keep in mind that so-called Pacifism assumes that your opponents are reasonable. If they are fanatics, then pacifism just gets you KILLED for no purpose. In other words, pacifists always loses. Their only hope is that there are so many pacifists that the terrorists got tired of killing them all, and found their heart, which is basically what happened to the Romans against Christians.

MLK jr. tactics worked because Americans are, above all, reasonable people, and recognize that equal rights only helps people, not hurting any one. Most people ARE reasonable, and tired to beating up on blacks just because.

Same with Ghandhi and the British Empire... British are reasonable, if a bit old fashioned and at least civilized.

However, you can't apply pacifism to the problem in Iraq or Afghanistan, and especially against terrorists. Terrorists are NOT, by definition, reasonable. No reasonable people will use terror to incite change. Attempt to apply pacifism to terrorists will only get you killed.

Fanatics / Terrorists are NOT reasonable. They plan on murder of dozens or thousands without an eyeblink, innocent or hostile, doesn't matter. Car bombs, kamikaze bombs, all the same to them. They don't even consider you as fellow human beings (purposeful distortion of the Q'oran, that says all non-believers are "infidels" and should be killed, even though "people of the Book", i.e. Christians, are specifically exempt) so they will kill you without an eyeblink. So how do you expect them to be reasonable and see your point of view?

And please don't tell me about Jesus. He died, remember? And had to be resurrected by you-know-who. We don't have that kind of "support network".

The only way to deal with terrorists is the Israeli way... kill the radicals who only knows how to kill and hope someone with more BRAINS than brawn rise to the top and actually negotiate a peace.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A bit of an update about that Williams Bus Crash

Here's an update about the Williams Bus Crash...

* One more crash victim has died in hospital, bring the death toll to NINE

* Driver, Watts, was confirmed NOT having "passenger endorsement" on his commercial driver's license. In other words, he is NOT licensed to drive a bus

* Colusa County DA have received blood test results... Watts was NOT DUI, and thus the DUI charges will be dropped. He will, however, still be held for parole violation. As I had suspected, he dozed off (or as his mother put it, diabetic coma)

* Even if the driver has diabetes, that means he should NOT be driving any way, as FMCSA rules are clear... Diabetes suffering drivers are PREVENTED from driving a commercial motor vehicle, unless they can pass the specific diabetic exemptions given by FMCSA/USDOT.

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Why are there no seatbelts in buses

So why aren't there seatbelts in US motorcoaches?

There are no seatbelts in US buses because it was not required by US Department of Transportation, for several reasons:

* USDOT, and its sister organization, FMCSA, have concluded that seatbelts do not significantly add safety for the cost they incur. Seatbelts are basically only useful to prevent ejections, which only occurs in overturn/rollovers. Statistics for past 10 years show that rollovers occur roughly 29% of motorcoach crashes that is tracked by FMCSA, and only 50 fatatalies in the past 10 years (as of 2006) due to ejection, and the potential cost of retrofitting seatbelts to buses is in the BILLIONS. The money is better spend elsewhere, such as reduce greenhouse gases and so on.

* Ejection can be prevented by designing better window latches and roof exit latches as well. Remember, there can be up to 61 seats (more if you're dealing with double-decks, articulated buses, and so on) and that's 122 more pieces that needs to be checked daily. For windows and exits, there are just a few on a bus. And no one has yet to design a seatbelt that fits a baby all the way up to a 300+ pound human.

* Buses, esp. motorcoaches with the luggage space under the seats, are high enough off the ground that only impact with a fixed object or vehicle of similar size (big rig, another bus, etc.) would affect the passenger cabin.

* Fire is more of a danger to buses, esp. when those onboard are seniors. In 2005, a bus carrying Katrina refugees caught fire when rear brakes locked. The ensuing fire generated thick black smoke that killed several evacuated seniors from a nursing home despite the best efforts of onlookers and the driver to fight the fire and evacuate the passengers. If there are seatbelts, one can only imagine even WORSE confusion.

While both Europe and Australia have seatbelt requirements, they differ somewhat, and so far USDOT shows no plan to adopt either standard. They believe better window glazing and locking mechanism is more likely to prevent ejection of passengers in case of rollover.

USDOT is also looking forward to recommend roll stability control computers in all larger vehicles, but that is still in study phases.

Drivers are supposed to remember that their vehicle does not turn on a dime, and hitting things doesn't always hurt the bus a lot, and preventing rollovers is more important than avoiding collisions.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Bus accident, and what YOU can do to avoid them

By now, the entire US of A have heard about this accident involving a bus in Williams, California. To summarize... a bus driver, first day on the job, flipped his bus, killing the owner and 7 other passengers, seriously injuring himself and dozens of other passengers. There were warning signs that this group never understood, but those of us in the industry knew to look for.

First of all, the bus was an ex-Greyhound, but with the words Greyhound removed. However, the vinyl had sat on the paint so long (the bus, judging by the model, is likely a MC-9 or MC-12, which make them about 20 years old, if not older) that the words look like they are still there. The original red and blue stripes were never removed. Yet we have learned that the bus was from "Cobb's Bus Service".

WARNING SIGN: bus with very old markings / doesn't match bus company name

Any bus company would PROUDLY display its own name to the world, except those that specialize in "discreet" transportation. So if you ran into a bus that has NO NAME , or a clearly WRONG name (obviously Greyhound is NOT Cobb's Bus Service), esp. a beat-up old bus like it came out of an old movie set or a junkyard, warning bells should be going off in your head.

There is one exception: in the industry it is common to "subcharter" someone else's bus to do a job. For example, you order a bus through A. A actually doesn't have a bus for you, but A knows that B has a bus available, so A takes the order, but actually subcharters B's bus and send it to you. This is very easy to confirm: call up A's dispatcher or whoever's in charge and ask him to verify that so-and-so was subchartered for your job. In fact, you may be able to specify that you must be informed if your job was subchartered to someone else, or you don't allow subcharter. Just make sure you specify it ahead of time.

Second item... the bus has "invalid plates and other ID info". Every bus in California (and in fact, the entire US of A) is required to have proper DOT approved side letters that displays the DOT and MC registration numbers. In CA, it's also needed to display the business name, home city, and the CA PUC Charter Party number (TCP). All of these information are easily available online for anyone to find and verify.

WARNING SIGN: improper/invalid side numbers, esp. TCP (CA PUC) and DOT

Look up something at the DOT FMCSA SafeStat Website

Look up something at the CA PUC Website

Thus, if you ordered a bus from Company A, the DOT or TCP numbers that you can look up better match. Or else, you better find out if this bus was subchartered or not, and demand to see THAT company's liability and accident insurance certificate before you depart.

If you don't have access to a computer, you can call the CA PUC hotline to either check if that company is legally operating in CA, or to even make a complaint.

Third, a warning sign is when the driver obviously not know what he's doing. According to eyewitnesses on the bus, the owner (who died in the crash) was talking to the driver all the time, giving him instructions and so on. Where there is nothing prohibiting passengers from talking to the driver, logically this should be minimized, and a bus coordinator should be onboard to deal with the passengers.

WARNING SIGN: some older man keep talking to the driver, who doesn't seem to know what he's doing

One other warning point... according to the map, the driver is NOT on the main highway, which is the fastest route. Usually, you go straight north on the freeway to Williams, then turn east into Colusa. This bus was on a LOCAL ROAD east of the freeway. Was it avoiding a checkpoint, taking a shortcut, or did the driver took the wrong exit?

WARNING SIGN: Driver exit not at normal exit, or cut lane at last second (as if he forgot to exit), or had to make U-turn to get back on route (signs of unfamiliarity)

Next entry, we'll discuss what it takes to be a commercial passenger driver, (i.e. bus driver) in the US, and why there are no seatbelts in the buses.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

WTF?! You can do that in Japan?

Apparently, you can bring your PC to a Japanese Shrine to have it blessed and hopefully free of BSODs.

Gee, wonder why don't Christian churches start offering this? Guess Holy Water don't do too well on computers, maybe?

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Friday, September 5, 2008

WTF? Earthquake!

Just had a one-second shake here in San Francisco. Let's see if the USGS has a confirmation up yet...

Yep, they do have it. Thanks to automation, this info is posted automatically on their website. Center looks to be Berkeley, CA or further east... Danville, CA. Richter scale 4.1, that's a pretty good jolt.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Q: "Is it true ,that using"cruise control" in wet and slippery conditions will cause control loss of your car?"

2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo Steering WheelImage via Wikipedia (see original discussion)

Well, is it true? Let's think about that, and analyze the question properly. Diagram the assertion shows:

"using cruise control in wet and slippery conditions" --cause--> "control loss"


The problem here is a little tricky. Does the control loss come immediately? Some time after? Never, or only in certain circumstances?

The answer logically is "only in certain circumstances". Thus, logically, the answer to the original answer is FALSE. A certain SECONDARY condition must be met (such as one wheel spins and the other does not). You may just get lucky and never hit a bad patch and lose control. It's not a "given". Cruise control <> spin out.

Now let's analyze the actual situation itself.

Let's say you are driving in the rain, no cruise control, going straight, and one of your wheel is spinning empty (hydroplanes) while the other one has traction.

The following should happen:
* the side with traction PUSHES the car toward the side without traction
* driver hits the brakes and turns toward side with traction (opposite turn)
* the side-to-side weight transfer is balanced and neutralized
* due to braking, more weight went forward, reestablishing traction to both wheels
* driver regains control of vehicle

Let's revisit the scenario, but with cruise control this time

* side with traction pushes car toward side without traction
* driver hits the brakes (which disengages cruise control) and turns toward side with traction
* the side-to-side... hey, it's exactly the same thing!

See the problem?

I can hear you say now... But it's the TIMING! It takes TIME to lift the foot from the floor to the pedal! And the driver on cruise control is less likely to be alert! By the time brakes are applied he's already spun out!

But you just admitted what the problem really was... "Driver's lack of attention." It wasn't cruise control at all.

I rest my case.

P.S. At least one supposed mechanic ("I don't need to reference a website to know how cruise control works") claims that you will speed up uncontrollably if your wheel loses traction. Hah!

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I originally had a blog called "Kasey's Random Thoughts". As time evolved, it became more of a "mobile game review site". So I decided to move my rants elsewhere.

My rants mostly involve my adventures on Yahoo! Answers, where everybody can give advice on questions posed by other members. You'd be amazed at how illogical some people can be, and flaunt their "title" as if that gives them a license to spread falsehood.

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