Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rant: Since when is pet ownership a "right"?

City and County of San FranciscoImage via Wikipedia
San Francisco City Council wants to pass a resolution making it ILLEGAL for landlords to specify "no pets" in San Francisco. Another typical SF Madness resolution.
The main reason that this is being brought up was that the tenants are being forced to "downsize" their rentals, and the new rentals don't take pets, thus, the shelters are overwhelmed, and lots of pets are "put to sleep". And apparently, this is anathema to some of the SF Animal Care and Control Commission members.

Frankly, this is backwards reasoning. In this economy, people can't afford both pets AND a nice place. The lack of "pet friendly" rental is just an excuse. The REAL TRUTH is people can no longer afford mortgages, and have to rent. If they own their own house, they can have pets with no restrictions. If they rent, they have restrictions. That's something they have to live with. If they want pet ownership right, they need to own their own house.

Do you put bumper stickers on rental cars? Of course not. When you "rent" or "lease", your rights toward that property is naturally more limited than if you owned it. Basically, you accept whatever the landlord says... unless you are discriminated against.

What exactly is a pet? Clearly, it means more than cat or dog... So where do you draw the line? Mouse? Hamsters and gerbils? Lizards like iguanas and dragons and such? Chameleons? Snakes? How long? How about horses, pigs, birds, and others? How big or small? Insects? If you include one, are you going down a slippery slope toward anything? How about a "human pet"?

Then since when is pet ownership a "right"? Pet is a LUXURY, like wine, jewelry, bling bling, and such. It's a PRIVILEGE! There is no such thing as "right to companionship" either. So this whole thing is a joke.

Artificially increasing the so-called "pet-friendly" rentals will cause a severe backlash against the city government.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Rant: Occupation of buildings as protest?

University of California, Berkeley Graduate Sc...Image via Wikipedia
A bunch of students have taken over several University of California campus buildings at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz, as well as other campuses. The students are "outraged" by the increase in fees, to over 10000, roughly 32%. So what exact did these student "protest" this lack of funds? By causing massive police presence, occupying buildings, forcing police to break in, trespassing, and destroying rooms and general vandalizing. They were finally evicted by police, charged with various misdemeanors and infractions in some cases.

Their protests actually COST the university system more money.

They claim they are expressing their outrage over the fee increase, but they are actually contributing to the problem by causing general mayhem, thus causing the school to lose even MORE MONEY.

Also, if the classes would be cut due to lack of funds, wouldn't you want to get your money's worth NOW, instead of cutting class and join this "protest" that actually costs the schools MORE money?

So in other words, it's like protesting lack of civil rights by beating up African-American people.

Tell me how is that logical?

What's more, a bunch of yahoos then messed up the UC Chanceller's RESIDENCE building, and vandalized the entire front porch, plus throwing a TORCH at it, essentially trying to firebomb it! That's completely OUTRAGEOUS! These are ****ing terrorists, not student activists!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, November 6, 2009

How could the Ft. Hood shooting have happened?

Fort Hood-Killeen, TexasFt. Hood, Texas
Image by Bling$Bling via Flickr
By now, the entire nation has probably thought about why did a Major in the US Army opened fire on other soldiers in the deployment processing area of Ft. Hood, Texas.

Strangely, I actually think I have an answer for that.

In my opinion, the problem here is Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is depressed, either covertly or overtly. The depression, along with other stressful events, lead him to believe that 1) he must 'save' others from getting deployed, and 2) in doing so, he can 'save' himself from getting deployed as well. It is just unfortunate that he chose two pistols and more ammo as his tool to do the saving. And there are many factors that lead to his present day.

One such factor is his ethnic background. Some reported him as "Jordanian-American", though he seems to have identified himself as more of a Palestinian, according to his local mosque former Imam, even though he is born in Arlington, VA. His parents have long since passed away and his brothers and cousins are living here in the US. Reports say that his family "has Palestinian roots". It is likely he grew up with the stories of the difficult lives of his parents, whom eventually fled to Jordan, then emigrated to the US.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

More environmentalism bullshit

Samsung Group 삼성 그룹Image via Wikipedia

Just learned that Sprint and Samsung is launching the "Reclaim", "a phone made out of 80% recycleable materials". I was surprised though that it wasn't the first "eco-friendly" phone. Motorola was actually first with "Renew" for T-mobile.

Well, *sounds* impressive, but how much of the Reclaim is really WORTH recycling? In general, the best way to "recycle" a cellphone is to donate it to a cause like battered women's shelter, so they can call 911 where-ever they are. Recycling electronics is often just not worth the time or money. They are simply too small to get much useful material out of them. The outer plastic shell is certainly recycleable.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why are some religious people so... literal?

Photo taken of Clarence Darrow and William Jen...Image via Wikipedia
Religion, Darwin, and Evolution

Why must some people take the Bible so... LITERALLY? It's obvious that the world was NOT created in six days, and the world was not created in 4004 BC (ref: King James Bible).

In fact, St. Augustine, VERY famous Christian about 400 AD, wrote a book called "True meanings of Book of Genesis", where he specifically stated that the Bible should not be taken as the literally truth, and Bible is NOT SCIENCE< but myth and allegory. Bible are a collection of lessons and messages from God, and some concepts can only be explained metaphorically, such as creation of space and time.

So why does some people insist that the Bible is the literally truth? That started in the Reformation. Basically, the reformation claims that the Bible, NOT the Pope, is the true leader of Christianity. Rather than having the Pope telling you what the Bible means, each reader of the Bible should be able to decide what the Bible meant to him- or herself.

Is representative democracy obsolete?

Politics as drama.Image by _ambrown via Flickr

Controversial Idea: Is Representative Democracy obsolete?

Thnk about it... the Greeks invented democracy, where any one who cares enough to argue policy can go down to the forum and join in the debate. But then, Greece back then are small city-states, each a government onto themselves.

Then comes the republic, when the distance prevents people from voicing their opinion directly, so representatives are chosen to speak for the people, so you don't have 10000 people stampeding into the capital just to get their voices heard.

Now, with the advent of telephone, TV, and advanced communications, it is possible to practice full democracy again... You no longer have to go physically to the government to be heard. There's e-mail, fax, phone, and so on. And if you care enough, you can always go physically.

So is representative democracy, i.e. republic, obsolete?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, September 4, 2009

Malpractice suits: who really pays at the end?

New York City HallImage via Wikipedia
Did you know that in New York City, 92.2% of OB/GYN doctors have been sued for malpractice at least once? And the average is 3 times each? The effect is OB/GYN driven out of the city altogether, or just GYN, no more OB.

Another OB/GYN doctor remarked: in 1981 his medical malpractice insurance is only $8000 per year. Now it's $155000 (2009). His practice can't pay for the insurance, at about $50 per appt, so he's getting out of the business. Average malpractice insurance for non-OB/GYN doctors in NYC is $40000.

Stats show that less than 30% of the malpractice suits actually have a chance of winning. The rest are frivolous.

Anti-bacterial / germicidal: the real health threat?

A schematic representation of how antibiotic r...Image via Wikipedia

Anti-bacterial or germicidal products are all around us. We are lead to believe that they are better than the plain-jane versions. Dish-washing liquids now comes in germicidal varieties. Even computer keyboards comes in germicidal varieties. But has it gone too far?

First, are bacteria REALLY that harmful through contact? There are deadly bacteria. Bad forms of E Coli or Botulism and such sends plenty to hospital very year. However, those are all INGESTED bacteria. What bacteria is there that are dangerous through CONTACT?

I mean, you wouldn't use those germicidal hand cleaners on your food, do you? Say a cucumber, carrot, and so on, that you'd eat raw?

The only kind that are widely known is the "flesh-eating bacteria", and even then it needs some sort of an entrance. But what are the chances of running into those for the average Joe?

Second, what about the GOOD bacteria? There are plenty of stuff that lives inside you.

Third, what are the consequences of such germicidal mania? More serious than you think.

Nature is a self-regulating mechanism. If you push it one way, eventually it will push back. What will likely happen is in the near future the common germs that these germicidal agents may develop resistance to these agents. It's the natural thing to do. So we'll have to invent something STRONGER... and the war continues.

The danger to this scenario is... if the resistant strain somehow got crossed with a virulent strain, we'd end up with a pandemic that we can't stop.

And we already have "drug resistant" forms of many diseases. Drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis already exists to most common forms of antibiotics, and the super-advanced antibiotics cost an arm and a leg. (And you thought that TB had been eradicated from the world!) The "super germs" are causing problems in Europe a lot. Many have died in hospitals from these super-germ infections.

Why do we need all this germicidal stuff when a simple hand-washing will do? After all, hospitals have done it for a hundred years to prevent infections, right?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Prop 8 supports... What kind of ******** argument is this?

Fight the H8
A bunch of conservative and religious organizations have united last year to pass Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to define marriage is between a man and a woman, thus making "same-sex marriages" illegal. There was a huge media blitz left and right, and in the end the Right won. But one wonders why are these people so anxious to 'save' it from the same-sex couples?

If you read their brochure, you can figure out where they're coming from:

[The following is translation of a real Chinese brochure passed out during Prop 8 mania. ]

Peace Protesters: wasters of money and time

LAFAYETTE, CA - SEPTEMBER 11:  Mark Kirby, dre...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Every time US goes to war, such as against Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on, some "peace protesters" dominate the news by staging huge rallies, disrupt people's lives in general, raise a lot of ruckus all over the place. In the nutty place known as Berkeley California, there's even a protest right in front of an Armed Forces recruiting station. What exactly do they hope to accomplish with such actions?

It sounds like the protesters themselves don't even really know. If you ask them "how will your actions today stop the war and achieve peace?" Their answer is pretty much, "we need to show the government that fighting is not the answer!"

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Not "legalize pot" again...

With California budget in such a mess, it's no wonder some folks with ulterior motives are trying to lobby CA to legalize marijuana for some additional revenue.

Frankly, this is going to cause so many issues, esp. with the Federal government (esp. the DEA, among others) that it's automatically a non-starter.

However, I may consider voting for it given that following condition(s) are met:

* any person who voluntarily choose to smoke pot will NO LONGER be eligible for ANY government-sponsored health care, be it city, state, or Federal funded, except detox. They may be reinstated provided they go through detox successfully.

WHY: If you choose to mess up your own body, why should we spend taxpayer money to fix you? If you want to get fixed, sure, go through a rehab program first. Relapse will mean a PERMANENT ban from public-funded healthcare, PERIOD.

This may require the state to create a detox prison, for addicts ONLY. After all, do you really want to lock up the users along with the peddlers and other hard-core criminals? No, you can fix the users... IF they want to be fixed. And a threat of NO HEALTHCARE EVER may scare them enough.

What do you think?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Is rap... music for people who are tone-deaf?

Is rap... music for people who are tone-deaf?

Or can rap be considered music at all?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Don't let your babies be satellite babies...

An SVG map of China with Fujian province highl...Image via Wikipedia

What are satellite babies? It's a term believed to be coined by Yvonne Bohr, a chilinical psychologist at York University in Toronto. It describe children of Chinese-American families, whose parents are working so hard, they decided to send their recently born children to live with grandparents in China, and bring them back when they are old enough to attend preschool.

The problem is, these satellite babies grow up to have MASSIVE psychological issues adjusting to life in America after spending their earliest years in China, and they are not old enough to recognize and discuss such issues. Some refuse to recognize their parents, some want to leave and are perpetually unhappy, some cry for no particular reason (that adults can see), some even turn masochistic, such as hit their heads against walls or other self-harm acts. Many are initially (and mistakenly) diagnosed as autistic. ALL needed psychological help, and not all are getting it.

Interestingly, it is a phenomenon virtually unheard of outside the Chinese-American society, due to several... peculiarities of the Chinese culture.

1) Chinese value their filial duty, and many defer to their grandparents when it comes to childrearing
2) Living standards in China are much cheaper than in the US, even if you count the plane tickets and long distance calls
3) Chinese families often live on opposite sides of the world. The old generation stay behind while the younger generation venture out and establish life in America,
4) The Chinese parents are working way too hard to provide any sort of proper family life (many are small business owners who works like 80 to 100 hours a week), and
5) these said parents want some Chinese culture indoctrination for their children early on, lest their children turn into... banana (yellow outside, white inside, a derogatory term for American-Born Chinese who looks Chinese, but acts completely American, with no trace of Chinese heritage other than genetic)
6) the grandparents have NO exposure to American culture, language, and so on.
7) a mistaken belief that young children will more readily adapt to new environment

If you are a satellite baby, your earliest memories would be a Chinese upbringing. Everybody is speaking Chinese. Every care is taken care of around the clock. You learn to be quiet until spoken to, and to appear obedient and cute (in other words, passive, don't stand out, don't make waves...) and mostly, be spoiled rotten by doting grandparents.

Then suddenly, when you're three or four, old enough to be preschool, start to have some ideas about the surrounding world and how it works... BLINK, you're in America. Unfamiliar surroundings, nobody you'd really recognize, everybody speaks ENGLISH except at home, NONE of the stuff you learned in the past few years apply any more. Who are these adults (parents) that are taking care of me but don't really have time? Where are the kind people that took care of me? Why doesn't any one else speak my language? Who are all these strange looking people? Why doesn't anything make sense?

No wonder some kids go bonkers! It's like taking them from Earth and drop them in the middle of an alien culture! Combine that with the Chinese upbringing they already got (internalize everything, don't make waves, etc.) it's small wonders why their heads aren't more messed up! Children without the early Chinese conditioning will act out violently, such as fights, screaming, and so on. But Chinese children are taught NOT to cry, not to make waves, and so on. So they turn into self-harm, passive aggressive behavior, and so on. They internalize, often withdrew into their own world where they are in control, or act out control fantasies such as superhero (and everybody else is "bad guy", including the parents).

And I can attest to this bad adjustment first-hand. I have a friend who has two rambunctious kids that had been living with grandparents in China for past several years. They almost appear to be twins, even though they are a year apart. They show absolutely NO discipline when they first got here. I personally witness them them HIT (punch) their own parents! They aren't as bad though as these parents go back every few months, and I think the mom stayed in China for several months to acclimate the kids before bringing them back. Still, it was NOT a happy family for a while.

This phenomenon is not new. During WW2, Germany Luftwaffe was bombing London daily in the period known as the "London Blitz". Some children were evacuated from London without their parents, often with their parent's wishes. Later psychological studies show that many of these children were so traumatized by the separation, it may have been better to let them endure the danger of the bombing instead.

And the idea of satellite babies is not new either. Immigration experts pointed to Chinese women who were smuggled over over a decade ago, often from the Fujian province of China, having children here, but due to various circumstances, chose to send their children back to China for initial upbringing. These children, however, are brought back much later, often as elementary school students or even later. It was only in recent years, when free all-day childcare became available in the US, that younger and younger children are brought back, and the problem exacerbated.

What can be done? Don't create satellite babies in the first place. If yo're too busy to have children, then don't! If you got them, then make time for them! If you don't pay the price now, you will pay later... WITH INTEREST TACKED ON.

So what to do if you already have satellite baby(ies)? Find professional help ASAP. Most large cities have a "Newcomer's Center" which can often refer you to child psychologists who can help deal with the issues. Also check with your child's teacher(s) and other school resources, as some areas have recognized the problem and have developed therapy for such children. Even so, expect years of adjustment, and even then the child may not fully recover.

Just to show you that EVERYTHING has a price. You may not pay it, but your children may instead.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Judicial Activism: the new double-speak

Sen. John McCain speaks at Albuquerque Memoria...Image via Wikipedia

Judicial activism is currently defined as a judge using his or her position to affect/change law, instead of defining/interpreting law.

A judge's role is often to clarify law, like when multiple laws come together which one has precedence, would a law apply to a new situation previously unintended or never before existed, and so on. For example, on many constitutional issues, some local laws are claimed to interfere with such rights as Bill of Rights and so on, by one side, and the government on the other side, claiming the laws are perfectly fine as written.

A while back, several California Supreme Court judges declared that the California constitution, which protects against discrimination against various things, including sexual orientation, trumps over any local law or even state assembly laws that blockss "gay marriage", despite the previous State Assembly passage of "In Defense of Marriage Act". They are accused of "judicial activism", as religious right accused them of "imposing their minority view on the majority of Californians".

More recently, Supreme Court candidate justice-to-be Sonia Sotomayor was accused of judicial activism by no less than Senator John McCain, former presidential candidate. This is probably fallout from her "wise Latina" remark made years ago.

So what's the point? I believe there's a fundamental logic problem with the critics who accuse ANYONE of judicial activism.

If judges are to interpret law as written, irrespective of public opinion, then if they do pass a decision that is unpopular, they will be lambasted as "judicial activists who are forcing their will on the public", correct?

But the whole idea of a judicial activist is someone who used his/her opinion, instead of law as written, to interpret the law, isn't it?

So what are the critics saying? That it's okay for the judge to use PUBLIC OPINION to interpret the law, but not his or her own opinion?

Even though a judge is ONLY supposed to use the law exactly as written, and perhaps, a bit of background information to guess at the circumstances and the original INTENT of the lawmakers who passed those laws, correct?

So what are the critics really saying? That any judge that makes judgments against public opinion is a judicial activist?

I always thought "activists" are those who are trying to make a difference (I make no judgment on the worthiness of their cause). It seems that only among POLITICIANS that activist is a NEGATIVE word.

So the politicians are against judicial activists (who are best defined as judges who buck public opinion, according to above). Which would make sense, since politicians fight for public opinion.

But what about the rest of us? Perhaps we should just embrace judicial activists BECAUSE the politicians hate them.

Until they rule against your subgroup, of course.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Deliberate misinterpretation, ARGH!

Van conversion minibus with full height entran...Image via Wikipedia

Why do some people choose to interpret stuff their way, instead of the normally accepted definitions?

One job recently called for a "15-seater".

A 15-seater van, as most people are aware of, has 15 seats (including the driver's position). Last row has 4, then 3 rows of 3, then two up front, for a total of 15. That's TOTAL capacity of 15, thus, 15-seater.

The person who ordered it actually did ask me, upon seeing the invoice (on which I wrote "15-seater charter") how many people is that, I replied "that's including the driver, so 14 additional people".

On the day of the ship, she argued and basically forced the driver to take one additional people, claiming that 15-seater means 15-passengers. The driver refused, as that would mean a ticket for him if he was ever stopped by police, for "overloading", no seat belt, and other offenses. They had a big argument. You don't need to know the result, suffice to say it got escalated to me, and I was exasperated to hear such lack of reasoning, esp. when I *did* tell her that it means 14-seats for passengers, no more!

When we say "it's a sporty two-seater", it mean two people in the car, including the driver, right? We don't call it a one-seater.

So how can anyone then expect a 15-seater to seat 16? (15 passengers, plus driver)

There *are* exceptions in the charter business. For example, when you go ABOVE van, to minibuses and motorcoaches, then the seating capacity no longer includes the driver, mainly because the driver sits in a DIFFERENT area, nominally SEPARATE from the passenger cabin. For example, in one of my old minibuses, the driver is separated from the cabin by a small partition. Even though it's based on a heavy-duty E450 step/van body, there is no passenger seat next to him, unlike some models. So, seating capacity is 25 (5 rows of 4 seats, plus a final back row of 5). I call that a 25-seater, seats 25-passengers. I don't call it a 26-seater. In a different vehicle of the same class (different maker) there IS a passenger seat (and a passenger door, in fact), but there's still a separate cabin. Those are technically 24-seats (6 rows of 4-seats each) with an extra seat for the tour guide / escort. It is "sold" as a 24-seater, not a 25-seater. In fact, some remove the seat and put in storage bins.

In larger vehicles, such as motorcoaches and buses, driver is NOT counted in the 'seating capacity'. It's just convention. When driver is separated from the cabin, they are NOT counted in the seating capacity. When they are NOT, then they are counted.

But there are no partitions in a van. So a 15-seater van seats 15, including driver. Enough said.

(Later we found that that every person she squeezed onto the van means more money in her pocket, which is why she wants that extra person in there. I don't want to mention any names, but this person works for a non-profit, the charter was for an excursion by a bunch of elders, and she solicited me for kickback on this job. Yes, I said KICKBACKS.)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Well, guess what I ran into just this morning...

it was raining so we had a cup of coffee at st...Image by Shira Golding via Flickr

I had just walked into Starbucks this morning, and had just ordered something. One guy parked his bicycle right outside, and walked in just as another guy opened the door. The guy who opened the door walked up to counter to order... while the guy with the bicycle walked up behind the stand with bags of coffee, and started to stuff bags of coffee down his jacket!

I turned to one of the barristas and whispered, "Hey, that guy is stuffing coffee down his jacket!" And keep in mind, this is right in front of two security cameras. The barrista looked up, and that guy is out the door, hopped on his bike, and gone.

Yep, it's a grab-n-run. The barristas took inventory of damage... Three or four bags gone. About what? $40 worth of coffee? Petit larceny, that is. And how much does he expect to sell them for? $5? Who would *dare* buy "Starbucks" coffee from a guy at a street corner?

And if it's for his own consumption, he'll soon run out of places he can pull this at.

What's the point? I wonder?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, July 24, 2009

Guess what CA wanted to regulate about your car?

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, ...Image via Wikipedia

Guess what regulation California wants to pass regarding your car?

A regulation concerning PAINT.

That's right, a proposed legislation will regulate what kind of paint / color you can get in California.

WHY?!?! You ask.

Well, black or dark color car gets hotter in the sun, right? So if you require cars to have lighter colors, you'll use the AC less, and thus, improve mileage, and reduce global warming, right? It sounds like someone from the Sierra Club or Union of Concerned Scienetists would propose: it sounds good, but it's unscientific.

So is the color black doomed as a car paint choice? Not quite.

Now you're going to say, but that made sense to me! But wait!

The problem is... Most of the heat in the cabin came through the glass, not the skin of the car covered by paint. Just think about it. The glass area is right at the cabin, while the area with paint is over the area mostly UNrelated to the cabin.

So how much gas can this idea save? About 10 gallons per car PER YEAR, and this would add over $50 to cost of the car, by most estimates. Not to mention this will severely limit your car's paint choice (black is out, closest is a very dark brown).

It took a study from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) to prove that this idea is a non-starter and that California Air Resources Board (CARB) should axe the idea, and CARB did.

Now CARB is back with another idea: requring glass that reflects a LOT MORE light than the current safety glass, which reflects a mere 6%. According to the proposal, the new windshield must reflect 30% of light (which matches current law of 70% light pass-thru). Side, rear, and sunroofs require even MORE reflectivity.

Please note that the regulations say REFLECT, not absorb. Which means tint is NOT acceptable.

In fact, the reflectivity requirement will jump to 45% by 2014, though in all honesty, it's for new cars only.

The problem is so far, only one company had came up with a new glass formulation that meets the 30% reflectivity... and it's EXPENSIVE, as it involves a nanolayer of silver between current safety glass, among other things. It does not affect visibility.

And what's more, the layer of silver blocks radio signals due to the Faraday effect (any one know what a Faraday cage is?) Thus, radar detectors and internal GPS receivers and anything else that receive radio signals inside the cabin will have problems (yes, even your cellphones, though that can be fixed by special antennas). Oh, and those toll transponders (Fastrak in Northern CA) that used to go inside your car... Now they have to go OUTSIDE.

As you can guess, this will severely affect the cost of a car, adding a few hundred, due to the exclusivity of this glass formula, and the added cost of the glass. In other words, CARB will grant monopoly to this glass maker, if this proposal passes. Yet the gain in energy savings is still debatable.

Not to mention this idea is pointless in the northern states. In the sunbelt, absolutely. But northern states? Nah.

Yet you know everybody follows CA when it comes to emission and energy stuff.

But there are HUGE implications when it comes to completely changing the formula of autoglass that is in use for the past several decades. I am sure it'll pass visibility and crashability, but what about replacement cost, widespread availability of such glass at places OTHER than the dealer, not to mention effects on interior electronics, effect on other drivers (increased reflectivity will affect other driver's visibility THROUGH your vehicle, say into the traffic beyond), and so on?

Then there are additional problems. If an owner is forced to replace these uber-glass with regular glass, maybe due to breakage, lack of parts, and so on, is the car still "legal"? Can it be registered next year like smog test? Will CA charge a "mitigation fee" to register out-of-state vehicles like it current does with cars that doesn't meet CA emissions? Do owners of such vehicles get refund for electronics that no longer work inside, or get a stipend to install conduit antennas to keep these electronics working?

While the intent is good, there are always unintended consequences. I am just not too certain if the consequences of this proposal has been fully realized yet.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Are V6's and V8's getting bad rap?

A fuel efficiency meter. (ex. At present, this...Image via Wikipedia

There seems to be a rush by auto manufacturers to introduce turbo 4's and turbo 6's to substitute for V6 and V8 engines, respectively. The INTENT was more fuel efficiency. In fact, some had earlier promised "Power of V8 with fuel economy of a V6". However, do they actually deliver more mileage? Or are V6's and V8's getting an unfair rap as fuel guzzlers?

Here's a comparison from Car and Driver mag (July 2009 issue, page 34)...

Nissan Murano vs. Mazda CX-7. Roughly same class of cross-over, yes?

Nissan: 3.5L V6, 265 HP, 248 LB-FT
Mazda: 2.3L Turbo I4, 244 HP, 258 LB-FT

Nissan enjoys a bit more HP, but Mazda gets more torque. However, keep in mind that there is a little bit of turbo lag for the Mazda, so Nissan should be peppier in city speeds. But let's call it equal.

Nissan: EPA 18/23, C/D observed: 23 MPG
Mazda: EPA 16/22, C/D oberved: 20 MPG

So the Mazda actually consumed MORE fuel on the average, despite having a smaller engine. Isn't that interesting?

C/D also shown that BMW 328i, with 3.0 I6, is more frugal than an Audi A4 2.0T /Quattro, which is a turbo 2.0L I-4. And MB S550 with 5.5 V8 gets better combined mileage than BMW 750Li, which has a twin-turbo 4.4 V8.

In fact, Ford had went on and admitted that their "EcoBoost" turbo 4's should get same fuel-economy ratings than the current unboosted V-6's.

And this is despite that fact that a turbo 4 should be LIGHTER than a V6, enjoys turbo lag (though that's reduced in modern turbos), has less torque band, will probably run hotter, and probably requires premium fuel.

So why should you buy a smaller engine that gets WORSE fuel economy (or at least, "no better"), than current V6's and V8's?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Oh, no, PETA is at it again...

PETA, or People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, is always generating new headlines, and they are very good in generating publicity with various stunts. Here are two examples...

Pescadero State Beach in Pescadero, California is slated for closure due to a severe budget pinch in California. PETA offered to keep the beach open by paying... If the state agrees to change the park's name to "Sea Kitten State Park", and ban fishing at that spot.

Why? Pescadero means "fisherman" in Spanish. And "sea kitten" is what PETA wants you to call "fish". According to them, "fish" is a derogatory term, so to bring "respect" to fish, everyone should start calling them "sea kittens".

Elsewhere... In Iowa State Fair, two local sculptors want to create a sculpture of Michael Jackson with butter as homage. PETA decided it's not a good idea, and suggested "Earth Balance" Vegan spread instead.

So, are the PETA guys just plain nuts, or is there some genius behind that nuttiness?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Argh! Incompetent tech support folks...

Image representing Symantec as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase

A month (or possibly several months ago, when I was still using NAV2007) I had inserted a VCD into the drive, and on the VCD is a VCDPlayer program set to autorun, but it's infected with W32.Pinfi.

NAV2007 caught it right away, and prevented the VCD from auto-running. I played it with VLC, no problem. But somehow it went into unresolved threat queue. The VCD has since been nuked (I made a copy of it, without that player program).

In June 2009, I installed NIS2009. And somehow the unresolved threat list migrated over. So every time I have a full scan, I get that unresolved threat.

I just spent TWO HOURS in online chat with Norton Tech Support this afternoon. The first guy, upon hearing the word W32.Pinfi, immediatley forwarded me to "Virus and Spyware Removal Department", and I got a regular case ID as well as a priority ID.

The V&SRD guy will NOT believe me that my computer itself is unaffected (and uninfected). I told him MULTIPLE TIMES that every scan, quick or full, came back clean, ever since install of NIS2009 in June 1, 2009. I gave him the whole history of this problem. He simply kept pushing that technician remote scan. I asked him how can NIS2009 itself cannot find the virus, he ignored my question, and kept droning that a technician remote scan will solve all of my issues and problems.

I flat out asked him "How can I purge the unresolved threat list?" And he went back to that sales pitch again.

Finally, I asked him how much, and was absolutely flabbergasted when the reply was $99.

You see, I got my 3-license NIS2009 FREE after $50 rebate. And I've so far only used ONE license. So asking me to pay $99 for a 'scan' on a computer that doesn't even have a virus, just to prove to Norton that the program has problems, is simply out of the question. I ended the chat session 30 seconds later, absolutely exasperated with Norton Tech Support.

And I can see that I am NOT the only one who has experienced this problem. There are MULTIPLE TOPICS on this very issue, and the solution posted above, original by Tufe, and reposted by Quad, did solve my problem (I also found the original post by Tufe last December).

So, Symantec / Norton, you guys need to do two things:

1) Solve this problem in NIS. Clearly, your program should NOT flag a risk on a removable drive without a way to purge it. Either offer up an IGNORE button, and file the risk under "ignore risks" with optional purge command, or simply be SMARTER about the device's capabilities. After all, why offer to "remove" a virus from a file on a CD? Just warn the user, and offer to eject, but don't force the user.

2) Stop the heavy-handed sales pitch. I thought the 2nd guy I was talking to was a 2nd level tech. Turns out he's even MORE clueless than the first tech I talk to. All he can do is recite the standard sales pitch and he's rather pushy about it. If he can't help me, he should just say so. Clearly neither actually tried to understand my problem, as the solution was in their forum all along.

I have been using Symantec/ Norton products for a VERY long time. In fact, I wrote some of the programs that print those yellow labels that go on the bottom of retail boxes. I like Symantec products, but if this is the current state of tech support, I am worried about Symantec's future.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Buying used cars, argh!

CraigslistImage via Wikipedia

Buying a used car from private party off Craigslist is full of suspects nowadays.

My dad needs a new van, so I was looking on Craigslist, and found a couple candidates. I went with a friend. When I got there, the guy has no less than HALF DOZEN vehicles for sale. Alarm bells started going off in my head. This ain't "private party" at all.

Then he said he doesn't have room to park all his vehicles, we'll need to go to a "lot" about 15 blocks away to see the vehicle in question. Hmmm... Okay, I'll bite.

Once we got there, the vehicle is in immaculate condition... In places that are visible. However, my friend is an old hand at this. He told the guy to check on something else, while he checked under the hood and unscrewed a cap with a hose going into a reservoir... Outside the cap the hose is pristine. INSIDE the bottle, there's a TON of crud attached to the hose. In other words, the engine compartment was steam-cleaned multiple times, but the cooling system is in serious need of a flush, with a lot of crud inside. In other words, this vehicle is a ticking timebomb. I'm surprised that the water pump actually works.

We thanked his time and got out of there.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

New month, new rant... Intersection panhandlers

You probably seen them in and around San Francisco... they stand in popular intersections, usually near highway onramps with a traffic signal. When cars are stuck, they walk between cars with a sign hoping for handouts. I've even seen two working the same intersection... One does the left side and the other does the right side.

Then there are the oddball ones that wave a funny sign, like "I admit, I just want a beer", or even one that flashes the victory sign.

Don't they know that "aggressive panhandling" is ILLEGAL in San Francisco? And a lot of intersections prohibits panhandling? AND there's a law that you can't panhandling within 100 ft of an ATM? Yet I see people doing that every day.

The problem is there's a "Homeless Coalition" in San Francisco, that are defending the offenders, and they are using various tactics to get the tickets dismissed, often without even the defendents appearing in court. In fact, it's believed that 85% of the "quality of life" tickets are dismissed outright. These are attorneys working pro bono out of the some of the biggest law offices in town, in fact.

The point of the tickets is to get the homeless into treatment programs, and for that, they have to appear in front of a judge in court. But the lawyers, often demanding an incident report (which must be filed, admitted into evidence, and all that) is getting tickets dismissed due to lack of such a report (which is NOT REQUIRED, by the way), often over the objection of the prosecution, completely defeating the purpose of such laws.

But the Homeless Coalition claims that the tickets are merely harassment of people who are down on their luck and need to panhandle to get by.

Police and DA are getting tired of such circular reasoning. Think about it... It's like saying if you provide services I would not be breaking the law. It's completely backwards, as you should not be breaking the law in the first place. As one cop put it, "It's like saying 'if you had bought me new tires I would not have ran that stop sign.'"

And don't people know giving those guys cash doesn't really help them? It's like feeding wild bears... it makes them dependent on handouts of human food so they that will no longer hunt / scavenge in the wild. Same with panhandlers. Once they know they can make X dollars per hour doing this, do you really think they'll go get a job?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, June 1, 2009

Business based on tricking people

The only business that relies on tricking people is magicians. Anybody else, and we call them crooks, and put them in jail.

Except the guys who manage to toe a fine line between warning you not to be stupid, and make you fall for the scam any way.

Here's one example... In California, every corporation incorporated here have to file an annual "minutes" with $25 processing fee that basically updates the government on how your corporation is doing, and who are responsible. Here is one such form:

Real Corp Update

However, there are some "legal scammers" out there that want to do the same work, except charge you $75 more, for a total of $100. But you do all the work any way, since you get to fill out THEIR version of the form, all the same info. They just copy your info onto a real form, and pocket the extra $75 you sent in. Sounds like easy work, doesn't it? Here's such a form:

Fake Corp Update

He's making money even if he got a response of just 1% (i.e. only 1 out of 100 fall for this "legal scam"). Yikes, too bad real businesses don't profit like that.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Friday, May 1, 2009

I only just now sorta realized how old I am...

I was looking through my credit card statement when I realized that I was STILL paying $9.99 a month for America Online. Yes, AOL. So I called them and canceled. Of course, the rep have scripts trying to keep you as a paying member... They suggest this, suggest that, and only finally reluctantly let you go. Though one interesting item did emerge... I was an AOL member for... twenty years and eight months.

Gee, that means I subscribed when I was just out of high school. Though that would make sense. I subscribed back in 1988, when there's this thing called PC-Link (which is derived from Quantum Link, for Commodore 64 and 128 users). In 1989 the company renamed itself America Online, and redesigned the software for GEOS, and later Windows.

So why did I pay for AOL at all? At the time (a couple years back) I downgraded to their $9.99 limited plan as I want to keep my websites up. I used to run a website called "Star Trek Nexus" that indexed other Star Trek websites and even assigned some ratings. It was manually kept and extremely tedious to the point I stopped after a year or so... I was in school at the time. AOL canceled their webspace late 2008. So you can no longer access Star Trek Nexus... and the Nexus Annex, and the Novel Annex... plus my old website: Kasey's Korner.

Most of the pages are available at Internet Archive's Wayback Machine... But not all of them.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

How the mighty has fallen...

See, even Miss USA agrees...

Today (NBC program)Image via Wikipedia

Miss USA Kristen Dalton, the winner that night over Miss California Carrier Perjean, was interviewed by Al Roker of NBC's Today Show. When the topic came up, she stated:

"The beautiful thing about America is that we have the right to choose what partner we want to love, commit and spend the rest of our lives with," Kristen said.

"I think that all couples should be able to be recognized legally, to enter into a union. Whether or not that should be defined as marriage, I'll leave that to politicians."

So essentially speaking, she is in support of "gay unions". Whether that's called marriage or not, that's a different problem. It's a more political answer than Carrie's, but that's because she's had a lot more time to think about it. And in all fairness, it's NOT that different from Carrie's answer:

“Well I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one way or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. You know what, in my country, in my family, I do believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there. But that’s how I was raised and I believe that it should be between a man and a woman. Thank you.”

In other words, she believes in gay unions. She just don't think it should be called "marriage".

Perhaps gay activists are getting a bit too big for their britches? At this rate, I'll have to join the conservatives, even though I consider myself a moderate.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rant about no-win situations, and gay rights

Miss California vs. Perez Hilton, who will win?Image by feastoffools via Flickr

Who the **** is Perez Hilton? What gives him the right to ask a deeply divisive question on national TV, forcing a contestant to choose between which portion of the nation to alienate, and thus, her fate in the pageant?

There is no doubt in anybody's mind (certainly not mine) that Perez Hilton set up Miss California, Carrier Perjean, for the question. Any way she answers, she's doomed. She's in a no-win situation.

Read the whole situation here:

Please keep in mind that Perez Hilton is openly gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, I personally support gay marriage. However, that is NOT the point. Think about it. This is on national TV. Either way Carrier Perjean answers, she'll alienate a large part of the public. At the end, she chose to speak her heart, that her family upbringing states that marriage is between a man and a woman, so no, she does not support gay marriage personally.

It's a choice between "Yes, I do" and it'd be a lie, or "No I don't", and get a ZERO from Perez Hilton, which may be enough to cost her the crown, esp. when she's the front-runner in the contest.

Say "Yes I do", and alienate the majority of the people who passed Prop 8, not to mention the religious right. Not to mention it'd be a lie.

Say "No I don't" and alienate the entire nation's LGBT population. However, that's still a minority.

Heck, Perez Hilton even claimed after the event that he will personally run up stage and RIP the crown from Miss California's head had she won the crown. What a ****ing grandstander. You call THAT "standing up for gay rights"?

Why don't YOU, Perez Hilton, "gay bigshot", ask Miss North Carolina what's HER stance on gay marriage? There's no plan to legalize gay marriage any time soon in NC, and AFAIK it doesn't recognizes gay marraige done in other states either. But no. He had to pose the question to his own state's rep, Miss California, and thus pretty much denying her the crown. To Mr. Perez Hilton, that opinion alone would make her unfit to be Miss California, much less Miss USA, never mind the selection committee and all the work that came before that. He doesn't like that answer, and with that divisive question, he destroyed the chance of Carrier Perjean becoming Miss USA.

What a ****ing... poo for putting her in that ****ing situation.

Technically speaking, there is a THIRD option... She could have added a statement that while she personally does not believe in gay marriage, as Miss California she is neutral on the issue, neither for nor against. After all, entire California is decidedly conflicted on this issue.

But then she would have sounded too much like a politician.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Rant about driver license

Current EU driving licence, German version  - ...Image via Wikipedia

Did you know that in GB the average rate of passing the driver license test is a mere 48%? And that in outer towns, it can go down to the 30's?

I don't know what the stats are in the US, but I'll bet it's a lot higher.

So that can mean two things: either our tests are too easy, or theirs are too hard.

I'll bet that ours are too easy though. Only a couple hours of self study, and we let our KIDS on the road. In GB, they need 40+ hours of PROFESSIONAL instruction.

How about Finns? In Finland, you need A YEAR AND A HALF of training to even take a test.

How did you think they produced all these Rally Champions?

(Oh, and Brits call Demolition Racing "Bangers")

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Rant about environment, and environmentalism

A diesel particulate filter (top left) in a Pe...Image via Wikipedia

When it comes to global warming, I'm somewhat ambivalent. I believe that it does exist, but I don't believe it's as severe as some people seems to think it is. And legislating changes *would* kill some business.

Just take the bus charter business for a while... CA already have one of the most stringent smog and particular emission standards. Smog for cars, particulate for diesels. However, CARB is considering forcing all diesel trucks and buses to convert to "clean diesel" in a few years.

Do you know how much a conversion is? I've checked. A particulate filter, "ballpark figure", is $12000 plus maintenance fees. Those filters needs periodic "cleaning".

Or I can buy a bus already equipped with such an engine, except this technology only came out in 2006, and since then CAT has gotten out of motorcoach engine business. And a new coach is 350,000 dollars. Yes, 350000. They haven't been on the market that long for used coaches to be discounted much.

Which brings me to the complaint about environmentalists... They are very active... as long as it doesn't cost them personally. While I agree it's nice to save the environment, have they consider the cost to the people? Especially in THIS economy? Sure it doesn't cost the people directly, but if it cost businesses money, and businesses have to get the money from either employees or the public.

Take the bus charter business for example... do you have any idea what I have to do when "clean diesel" are required "by law"?

I'll have to sell at least two of my buses in order to retrofit the rest with the filters. That means at least three (more like 5, my buses are old and aren't worth much) of my drivers will be laid off, and my business will SHRINK, which means LESS taxes for the government. Right?

But you're saying "but we're saving the planet!" Sorry, I don't buy that. Not when the times are bad. Especially not when the times are bad. When times are bad, government should not tax. Government should SPEND, and hope the dollars spend goes into people's pockets, which then encourages further spending, thus creating demand and jobs.

Sure requiring something increases demand... But not when retrofits are required. Airbags are now required, but that stuff is BUILT INTO CARS, and there are no rules to require older cars to be retrofitted with airbags that don't have them.

No, the problem is the spending plan. Such spending should be done in GOOD TIMES, and there should be plenty of incentives to encourage people to go along. Something like the hybrid or clean air car rebates. Except in nice and BIG amounts to companies. Heck, you're giving $2K to $4K tax credits to hybrids. Why NOT $10K to $20K tax credit toward clean diesel retrofits or new clean diesel purchases? A new hybrid is like what? $25K to $35K? (The new Honda Insight is $20K base, about $25K in CA trim w/ options and add sales tax and reg) Perfectly reasonable when a new bus is 300K to 350K (about 10 times cost of a vehicle). And we carry a lot more people than those equivalent cars.

I'll gladly help the environment if the conversion is free or low cost. But asking me to spend $12000 on each of my six buses is simply out of the question. Environment be ****ed (sorry for the blasphemy). A few thousand (say, maybe THREE) can be discussed. But TWELVE? Gimme a break.

Personally, I'd say the budget office should determine if the year is a "good" year, or a "bad" year. In a "good" year, part of the tax income should be dumped to a reserve fund. When year is bad, you pull frm the reserve fund. When reserve fund exceeds a certain number, you pull the excess and use it on "bonus" programs like this sort of incentives.

Forcing people to spend is a good way to get them to do something else instead. You need to ENTICE them instead. Remember, carrot AND a stick.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]